Wildcats overwhelm Aggies in second half, 64-53

4 Feb

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Will Spradling scored 19 and Angel Rodriguez added 17 as the Wildcats pulled to 5-5 in Big 12 play with a 64-53 win over Texas A&M on Saturday.

Kansas State took its first lead on the first basket of the second half – a floater by Rodriguez. Back and forth scoring eventually gave way to a 34-30 lead by the Aggies, but an agile basket by Thomas Gipson and a second charge taken by Jamar Samuels started to turn the tide.

Indeed, Gipson’s basket would be the start of a huge run for the Wildcats. Rodney McGruder hit his first 3-pointer of the game, and Martavious Irving followed it up with his first basket. Gipson got fouled in the paint and made both free throws. Diaz also hit two from the charity stripe, and then Samuels made a convincing shot fake before driving to the basket and converting at the rim.

With that, the Wildcats had a 43-35 lead, their largest of the game to that point.

The Aggies cut it to five, but then Rodriguez took control. He scored 8 straight for the Wildcats to make it a 52-40 game with less than 8 minutes to play. A medley of scoring from Gipson, Diaz, Spradling and Rodriguez again put Kansas State in front 60-43.

The Wildcats had trailed by as many as 10 points in the first half.

“That’s the fight, that’s the courage that you look for as a coach,” Frank Martin said. “When you see that, it makes you understand why you should be proud every day you get to coach these guys … When things are difficult, and you’ve really got to pull up your pants and go, you find out who really gets it done and who you really can put your trust into.”

Ten straight points from Elston Turner got the Aggies within 60-50 with four minutes to go, but it would be too little too late.

The distance Kansas State put between itself and Texas A&M contrasted drastically to the first half, when the Wildcats never led the Aggies.

After a slow start by both teams, Texas A&M snapped off a 12-2 run that inspired Martin to call a timeout. The Aggies led 16-6 with 12:05 left in the first half thanks to a battery of baskets and pair of steals from guard Naji Hibbert, who finished with 14 points.

Out of the timeout, Gipson made a basket and got fouled underneath. He missed the free throws, but the Wildcats got the rebound. Spradling drilled a 3-pointer, got fouled and made his free throw. The Wildcats followed up the six-point possession with good defense, and Samuels scored on his team’s next trip down the floor to put the Wildcats within 16-14.

The teams traded 3-pointers from there. Jordan Green hit one to give the Aggies a 19-14 advantage. Spradling got his second of the game – busting a recent shooting slump – to pull the Wildcats within 19-17, and Hibbert hit another to give Texas A&M a little breathing room once again.

The Wildcats would never quite catch up to the Aggies in the first half, but a thunderous dunk by Gipson brought them within 25-24, the closest they had been.

With the win, Kansas State is 10-0 versus Texas A&M in Manhattan.

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