When the Oklahoma Sooners took the floor on Saturday afternoon in Manhattan, they were surely prepared to have their hands full with Rodney McGruder. K-State’s leader delivered though it took him a while to get into the flow of the game. With just under seven minutes remaining in the first half McGruder was still looking for his first points of the day and the Wildcats were down 21-17.
At that point he stepped to the line and made a pair of free throws. On Oklahoma’s next possession Rodney came away with his only steal of the game that lead to two more free throws off the hand of Adrian Diaz. All of that was the spark McGruder needed to kick things into gear as he hit from beyond the arc on each of the Wildcats next three possessions.
Thirteen minutes into the game he was scoreless but just four minutes later he had eleven points to his credit and powered the Cats to close the half on an 18-6 run.
Coming out of the break a McGruder layup pushed K-State’s lead to an even ten and from there the two teams played a fairly even game with the Sooners changing their defense from man to zone and back to man in an attempt to get back into the game. The OU zone was largely effective and it slowed the Wildcats for a while but KSU’s team defense was off the charts as they held Oklahoma to just nine points in the first 10 minutes of second half. The result was a fairly comfortable 69-60 win by Kansas State.
As expected, McGruder led the Wildcats with 20 points on 6-12 shooting and 4-9 from three while playing the full 40 minutes. Of course Rodney had more than a little help from his friends on the day. Shane Southwell was fantastic in the first half and finished with 12 points and seven rebounds. Angel Rodriguez continued to struggle with his shot making four of 14 attempts but wound up with a dozen points and more importantly had three steals, nine assists and just a single turnover. The true surprise and unexpected contribution came from Will Spradling who went for 15 points on 5-9 from the floor after scoring nine points in his previous three games combined. McGruder, Southwell and Spradling accounted for nine of the team’s ten three point makes and 19 of the team’s 24 attempts.
Though he wound up with 12 points and eight rebounds, Romero Osby was held in check for most of the game and scored ten of his points in the last seven minutes of action. Amath M’Baye also finished with 12 and Steven Pledger added ten. 6’3″ freshman guard Buddy Hield had the best overall game of the bunch for Oklahoma. In addition to his eight points, ten rebounds and three assists, it was Hield, out of all the Sooners,who played with the most energy and effort.
The Sooners were 12-4 overall and 3-1 in conference after suffering defeat on Saturday. However they’ve already played another game* and picked up a 73-67 over Texas at home.
*That’s what happens when my weekend is gobbled up by my “day job” and Royals Fan Fest in addition to the usual youth soccer and youth basketball games.
If you’re a fan of the #11 Wildcats (15-2, 4-0) or the #3 Jayhawks (16-1, 4-0) then you’re already aware that tomorrow is the first installment of this year’s Sunflower Showdown. While it is still early in the conference season, there is more on the line tomorrow evening than just bragging rights for the next 20 days (they play again on February 11th). Kansas and Kansas State stand as the lone two unbeaten teams in the conference and bring in the second (Ben McLemore – 16.4 ppg) and third (McGruder – 15.5 ppg) leading scorers in the Big 12. For the Wildcats, who play host for the first round of this battle, the game has even greater importance if they have designs on keeping pace with KU in the run for the conference title.