No. 18 K-State relies on bench in rout of Texas
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State’s bench had become a popular place in the first half Wednesday night.
Rodney McGruder had taken a seat after picking up two fouls in the first 2 minutes against Texas. Martavious Irving quickly joined him. And then Will Spradling staggered in their direction after breaking his nose, blood spilling into a towel pressed tightly against his face.
Didn’t seem to matter one bit, though.
The way the No. 18 Wildcats were playing, coach Bruce Weber could have grabbed the equipment manager off the end of the bench and put him into the game with the same result.
Kansas State rolled to an 83-57 victory.
“I think we were all disappointed after last week,” said Weber, whose team was coming off back-to-back losses to Kansas and Iowa State. “We challenged them to play hard.”
They certainly did that.
Thomas Gipson had 17 points off the bench, Omari Lawrence added a career-best 12 and Angel Rodriguez chipped in 11 points and eight assists as the Wildcats (16-4, 5-2) rolled to their most lopsided win in the series since an 87-60 victory on Dec. 8, 1971.
Suddenly, the Wildcats are back in a second-place logjam in the Big 12.
“We had two tough losses, so we had to bounce back,” said Lawrence, who played 19 minutes because of the Wildcats’ foul trouble. “We came out with a lot of energy today.”
Not so much the Longhorns (9-11, 1-6), who committed 18 turnovers.
“They came out, they were terrific,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said, “and we certainly helped them, not fighting. Not fighting their early determination, their intensity. We didn’t match them from the beginning. We had chances.”
Sheldon McClellan had 15 points and Jaylen Bond added 12 for the Longhorns who are still missing the ball-handling and playmaking ability of suspended guard Myck Kabongo.
Kabongo’s not eligible to return until Feb. 13.
“We had a lot of turnovers. I had a lot of turnovers,” McClellan said. “We’ve just got to do a better job of taking care of the ball.”
The Longhorns, who snapped a five-game skid by beating Texas Tech last Saturday, still have not won a road game in five tries this season. They’ve also lost five of their last seven against the Wildcats, including three straight in Manhattan.
Kansas State tried to help them out with its early foul trouble.
McGruder couldn’t believe it when he heard two quick whistles, and neither could Weber when Irving joined him on the bench. The Wildcats’ first-year coach at one point got into a shouting match with officials that covered the entire width of the court.
The way Texas was executing, it didn’t matter who Kansas State played.
During one haphazard stretch, Texas turned the ball over five times in six possessions, and the one time it got a shot off, McClellan tossed up an air ball.
The Wildcats took advantage by putting together an 8-0 run. By the time Texas coach Rick Barnes called for a timeout, the Wildcats had pulled ahead 21-9 with 8 minutes left in the half.
Texas finally ended its drought when McClellan scored in transition, and in the process ran over Spradling. Trainers rushed out and pushed a towel against his bloody face, and after a few seconds on the bench, Spradling was accompanied to the Kansas State locker room.
Now without three key contributors, Kansas State continued to build on its lead.
Lawrence, who averaged just 2.4 points, matched his career high with 10 in the first half. Shane Southwell had his five first-half points during a stretch that included an intentional foul on the Longhorns’ Javan Felix that helped Kansas State take a 31-13 lead.
“It started with our defense. We turned them over,” Weber said. “We got so many steals, turnovers, deflections. Omari ran the court, Angel pushed it. We got some inside looks, moved the basketball. That was the best part of it. That’s why we were able to survive.”
Texas had twice as many turnovers (12) as made field goals at the half, going 6 of 23 from the field and missing both of its 3-point attempts. And its 19 points barely eclipsed the season-low for a half — they managed 17 in the first half of a loss to Georgetown in December.
Felix finally got things going for Texas early in the second half, going straight to the rim for easy layups on three straight possessions. But McGruder, back on the court, made a three-point play with 17 left to put a stopper in the Longhorns’ momentum.
Gipson scored three straight baskets to answer another Texas salvo, and a pull-up 3-pointer by Spradling in transition pushed the Wildcats’ lead to 53-33 with less than 13 minutes to go.
Kansas State used a 14-2 run a few minutes later to put the game away.
“This was a pretty easy one to figure out,” Barnes said. “If you weren’t ready to play right from the beginning, the rebounding, the mood — this is what you get. We definitely deserve what we got, because we didn’t do anything right in a lot of ways.”