NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — On a day when he struggled to make shots, Angel Rodriguez delivered from the line for No. 18 Kansas State.
The sophomore guard hit two free throws with 5.6 seconds remaining to give the Wildcats a 52-50 win over Oklahoma on Saturday night.
Even though Rodriguez was 1 for 6 from the floor and his team wasted a late eight-point lead, coach Bruce Weber had confidence in Rodriguez to make a play.
Rodriguez drove by Sooners guard Sam Grooms into the lane and was fouled. He then put his shooting woes behind him and made both free throws.
“I was just saying, `It’s just another free throw like you practice by yourself in the gym,'” Rodriguez said. “I like the pressure. I think I function better with pressure.”
The free throws ended an 8-0 run by the Sooners in the final two minutes that tied the game for the first time since the 7:30 mark of the first half.
With Oklahoma trailing 50-42, Romero Osby scored the last of his 13 points on a three-point play to pull the Sooners within five with 1:58 to go. Grooms then tied it with a 3-pointer and a driving layup with 13 seconds left. Weber opted not to call a timeout, instead letting Rodriguez take the game into his hands.
“I told him to push it and see what happens,” Weber said. “If it gets to where we don’t have anything, I’m going to call timeout. We practice that all the time. Sometimes you call timeout and it gives the defense a chance to set up. (Oklahoma head coach) Lon (Kruger) does a great job of taking things away, so we thought it was better to just go with it. It was a double ball-screen, Angel read it, got to the bucket and was fortunate to get the foul and get the free throws.”
Just as Weber had done, Kruger also did not call a timeout and Grooms had a chance to win it for Oklahoma. However, his 3-pointer at the buzzer was short. The win kept the Wildcats (17-4, 6-2) in second place in the Big 12, one game behind Kansas.
For the Sooners (14-6, 5-3), it was their third loss in their last five games after starting Big 12 play 3-0.
“We realize today that we have a lot way to go,” Kruger said. “There is nothing wrong with that. With this group of people, they have done a great job and made a lot of progress. Today’s a reminder that we still have a ways to go.”
Will Spradling led the Wildcats (17-4, 6-2) with 12 points, including five in a row after the Sooners pulled within one with 11:27 to go. Their leading scorer, Rodney McGruder, was held to seven points on 2-for-8 shooting.
Osby had 13 points and seven rebounds to lead the Sooners (14-6, 5-3), who had no other player reach double figured in scoring.
“They were into it and dictated for most of the night with their defense,” Kruger said. “We had trouble getting separation and trouble scoring. Credit Kansas State, they were the better club and deserved to win.”
Open looks were hard to come by for both teams and neither made more than 40 percent of its shots. Oklahoma was held scoreless for over 10 minutes, including the last 6:27 of the first half, but Kansas State was only able to go on a 6-0 run during that stretch to take a 30-23 lead.
The Wildcats were without McGruder and Spradling due to foul trouble for much of that stretch. And while the Kansas State reserves struggled to score, they made life difficult for Oklahoma on offense.
“That group that was in was a weird group for us because me and (McGruder) were in foul trouble,” Spradling said. “They couldn’t get the flow going offensively. They did a great job defensively. They did what they had to do to keep us in the game.”
That included Rodriguez, who logged the most minutes of any Wildcat and helped hold the three starting guards for Oklahoma — Steven Pledger, Buddy Hield and Je’lon Hornbeak — to 2-for-12 shooting and six points.