Tag Archives: Kansas State basketball

Another underrated team, another Big 12 title

10 Mar

Is there an echo in here?

If the following story line sounds familiar, it is. You just heard it a few months ago.

“Picked to finish in the middle of the pack this year, the Wildcats surprised everyone by not just putting together a successful season but by claiming a share of the Big 12 title.”

The basketball team, predicted to finish fifth, at the very bottom of the top half of the league, won 25 games after an offseason coaching change that initially left many fans dissatisfied. Even though coach Bruce Weber and the Wildcats lost Saturday at No. 13 Oklahoma State, they still ended up with a piece of the championship when No. 4 Kansas suffered its worst loss in seven years to unranked Baylor in Waco.

The Kansas State football team, which ended the season 11-2, had been predicted to finish sixth. In retrospect, it is hard to believe people thought that the team would straggle into a position in the bottom half of the league. Instead, the Wildcats felled mighty Bob Stoops and ranked Oklahoma in normally unassailable Norman and went on to contend for the national championship.

Does it bother Kansas State players that media outlets often ignore them? A little, but it is nothing new, said junior guard Will Spradling, who played on Saturday despite a bruised sternum.

“We’re not getting the type of respect that we should, but that’s something K-State’s dealt with in every sport, every year,” Spradling said. “The football team didn’t get much respect this year until they got the No. 1 spot, and they still weren’t getting much respect at the end of the year.

“K-State’s just – athletically they’re kind of looked down upon, and teams lately have really been rejuvenating the program,” he added.

Outsiders might not have expected the basketball team to contend for a Big 12 title, but senior Martavious Irving knew the opportunity was there.

“When they won it, that’s the first thing I thought about,” Irving said. “We’re the next major sport at the school, so it’s pressure and we’re pretty good, even though we’ve got a new coaching staff, I was thinking, ‘Now it’s kind of like we’ve got to win it too.'”

Win it they did. It is the first Big 12 title in basketball for Kansas State since 1977. Weber was 20 years old.

As senior Rodney McGruder gazed up at the championship banner on the wall of the gym in the Wildcats’ new basketball practice facility, he remarked how long ago it was – more than a decade before he was even born. He interpreted the length of time since a Big 12 title as a chance for this year’s team to accomplish something great.

Even with the end of the regular season still a few weeks old, senior Jordan Henriquez looked at the chance to win a championship not just as a crowning accomplishment but as the beginning of a new tradition that his younger teammates can continue.

“If we win the Big 12 championship, I want those guys to keep it going,” Henriquez said. “If Kansas can win nine or 10 in a row, why can’t K-State?”

 

 

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Numbers to Note: KSU/OU

20 Jan

9 assists for Angel Rodriguez

Angel Rodriguez’s contribution presents a great opportunity to talk about what he and Martavious Irving bring to the Wildcats. They don’t always hang a ton of points on the board, but missing the duo for a pair of games before Big 12 play began showed what the team looks like without them. Suffice it to say that the Wildcats are much better off when both are available. Both were key on Saturday in forcing 16 Oklahoma turnovers, which Kansas State converted into 26 points.

“I thought our pressure would hurt them,” coach Bruce Weber said. “I thought Angel and Tay really set the tempo and really bothered their guards. We got on the floor.”

Rodriguez has looked out of control now and then, sometimes going to the rim too quickly instead of running the offense, sometimes shooting with a bit too much abandon. These days, he just looks a little more steady, a little more relaxed.

“We told him you don’t always have to score,” Weber said. “Make the good pass, the good play. I think he’s starting to buy into that a little bit.”

 

20 second-chance points for Oklahoma

The Wildcats cannot ever allow that again. If the Sooners had not committed nearly a dozen turnovers in the first half, their domination on the boards could have ended Kansas State. As anybody who follows basketball knows, it is hard to overstate the importance of rebounding. It is all about opportunities: each offensive rebound grabbed is another opportunity for your team to score, and each defensive rebound is another opportunity denied your opponent. Huge, huge, huge, huge. The Wildcats will have to keep opponents from getting multiple shots in possessions if they want any shot at challenging for the Big 12 title.

Weber said the way Oklahoma draws the forwards away from the basket makes rebounding against the Sooners challenging because the job then falls to the guards.

“We talked about scramble rebounds and nose for the ball before the game, and the scramble rebounds were going to come because they get you spread out,” Weber said. “You’ve got to rotate, you’ve got to get to their bigs on different things, so now you’ve got to help, now you’ve got to rotate and scramble. We did not do a very good job on that. They killed us on the boards.”

 

10 from long range by Kansas State

Listening to Oklahoma coach – and former Kansas State coach – Lon Kruger after the game, you got the impression that he did not expect the Wildcats to drain quite so many 3s. Maybe no one expected it, but it certainly makes you wonder what all this team is capable of when it really hits its stride. Rodney McGruder made four of those 3s – three coming right in a row – and Will Spradling made three, while Shane Southwell made two and Angel Rodriguez added one.

The offensive production also hints at an increasingly solid grasp by the players of first-year Kansas State coach Bruce Weber’s offense.

“In our offense, any given night anybody can have a big night because it really just kind of lets anybody get the flow of it, so anybody can get hot,” Spradling said, “and it’s nice that we didn’t need to rely on that one person that was hot at the end of the game because we had so many players that were playing well and shooting it well.”

Besides understanding the new system, players have started to believe in it.

“Mentalities have changed around the locker room,” McGruder said. “We’re really focused and things like that. When everyone buys into what coach is preaching to us, then I think we can be very good, and that’s what everyone’s doing. Just from a mental aspect, Everyone’s just buying in. That’s what’s key.”

Much for which to be Thankful

22 Nov

On Nov. 13, when the Kansas State men’s basketball team destroyed Alabama-Huntsville by 61 points, the largest margin in Bramlage Coliseum history, Chargers coach Lennie Acuff said something profound.

“It just shows you that everything you do isn’t based on basketball,” he said, “because it goes from one extreme to the other real quick.”

The night before that 87-26 defeat by the Wildcats, Alabama-Huntsville gutted out a 78-75 nail-biter against North Texas that came down to free throws.

The parallel between what happened to the Chargers between Nov. 12 and Nov. 13 and what happened to the Kansas State football team just a few days later is an easy one to draw.

Last Friday, the Wildcats only need to win out, and they have a clear path to the national championship, which would be the first time ever a Kansas State team would play for the BCS title.

By Saturday night, those hopes were all but dashed after the Wildcats were defeated handily by Baylor, a team that entered the game with a losing record and whose only conference victory came against KU.

So much emphasis is placed on sports these days, and central to that is an emphasis on winning. There is nothing wrong with that. Still, it is important to remember that a W-L record is not what truly defines an individual. Not even close.

Deep down, most people understand that, and it is a testament to coach Bill Snyder and the Kansas State football program that when asked about Thanksgiving on Tuesday afternoon, many players seemed to have a very firm grasp of that reality.

Needless to say, no one mentioned the W-L record.

“These guys are my brothers,” said center B.J. Finney, “and the family that we have here is incredible. I am just thankful again to God that we have been blessed with such good health and few injuries. We have kept a really good head on our shoulders, and I am just thankful for that.”

“It has been an incredible experience,” said kicker Anthony Cantele. “The most important thing to me is the friendships that I have made with these guys along the way. We always talk about family, and this is definitely a family atmosphere. That is never exaggerated. I am incredibly thankful. I could not be more blessed to be in the situation that I am and have these kinds of teammates.”

“It has been a great journey,” said linebacker Arthur Brown. “Just the process of growing together with the team has definitely been something that I will take with me and remember for the rest of my life. It has helped mold me as a person, and I think I will continue to grow and develop from here.”

“It is a special group,” said quarterback Collin Klein. “It is a group that has been through a lot through our time here. We have come a long way, and it is a group that we truly care about each other in a pretty special way as brothers would or family members would. We are still having fun, and that is important.”

Bruceketball Begins

10 Nov

New Kansas State coach Bruce Weber now has three games at Bramlage Coliseum under his belt. Friday night’s 85-52 win over North Dakota was the first official game for him at the helm.

You can read my full recap of that game here, but at the moment I just want to run down a few observations of the team to this point.

1. Kansas State has the makings of an excellent frontcourt. In Thomas Gipson and freshman D.J. Johnson, the Wildcats have strong, powerful guys who have an advantage securing position for rebounds and who can dominate in the paint with their back-to-the-basket moves. In Jordan Henriquez and Adrian Diaz, the Wildcats also have lean, long guys whose presence dissuades teams from even coming in the paint because they can so easily block such shots. Because of their height they are difficult to guard around the basket, and Henriquez has been working on a hook shot that makes him dangerous further away from the hoop too. Those four are going to present a unique challenge for Kansas State’s opponents this year.

2. The play of Angel Rodriguez is going to be so important to this team. The Wildcats could not open up a double-digit lead over North Dakota during the entire first half, much of which Rodriguez was sitting because of foul trouble. When Rodriguez returned after the break, he drained consecutive 3-pointers and slithered through the paint for a layup. Eight straight points. That sequence gave Kansas State momentum and turned the tide of the game. Weber said yesterday that the team goes as the guards go, and Rodriguez is obviously a huge part of that. He has all kinds of potential, but harnessing it consistently is easier said than done. Whether he is able to do so will determine how good these Wildcats can be.

3. The production of Nino Williams has been fascinating to watch. After hardly getting any time under former coach Frank Martin, he looked fantastic in both exhibition games, and he earned his first career start on Friday night against North Dakota. He promptly scored the team’s first points, and he snagged five rebounds as well. Williams may not start throughout the season, but he provides a nice jolt of energy for the Wildcats, so even if he comes off the bench, you can expect him to have a significant role this year.

Wildcats benefit from summer practice time before going to Brazil

20 Jul

The NCAA rule changes that allow coaches to spend more time with players during summer could not have come at a better time for the Kansas State men’s basketball program.

With a brand new coach in Bruce Weber and a trip to Brazil coming up, the players and coaching staff are taking advantage of revised regulations that allow for eight hours of practice each week (two hours on skill instruction, the others six for weight training and conditioning) for up to eight weeks during the summer provided that the players are enrolled in summer classes.

“All the coaches I’ve talked to are positive about it,” Weber said Tuesday during media availability. “It’s something we have fought for forever.”

The extra opportunity for the coaches and players to develop chemistry and learn how to work within the system of Weber is especially valuable for the Wildcats this summer, since all the players from last year’s team had decided to stay on this year despite the coaching change that on the surface looks like a switch between two polar opposite personalities.

“Basketball is pretty simple, but everyone does it a little bit different,” Weber said. “Coach Martin and his staff got them to play hard and compete hard. That’s what we’re trying to continue. Now, also, the heart is there, the intensity is there. We have to think a little bit—let’s keep our poise and composure, along with doing our skill work. That’s important, too.”

The combination of more practice time and a trip overseas to play against professional teams in Brazil will be a time where everyone can get used to personalities and working together, something that is particularly important considering the group consists of mainly Martin recruits.

“The chemistry is just as important as anything else,” Weber said. “Getting to know each other, enjoying each other, learning about each other, and then you’ll see how guys react. It’s one thing to do it in drills; it’s another thing to do it in live practice.”

Even before the rule changes, the players would have gotten time together during weight lifting and open gyms, but the hours in the gym with coaches have allowed players to get used to the new coaching staff and given the coaches time to observe the players and see what they still need to work on. 

Senior center Jordan Henriquez said that while everyone has to adjust to the differences between the former coaching staff and the current one, much has stayed the same.

“Things are still intense,” he said. “They’re different coaches so they have different coaching styles. It’s an adjustment—we’re all trying to adjust. We’re all buying in and getting ready to go to Brazil.”

 

K-State will play Gonzaga in December “Battle in Seattle”

28 Jun

ImageThe full 2012 Kansas State basketball schedule has not been released yet, but the university has announced that the Wildcats will take on Gonzaga in the “Battle in Seattle” on Dec. 15 at KeyArena, home of the WNBA’s Seattle Storm and about a four-and-a-half-hour drive from the Bulldogs’ home stadium in Spokane, Wash.

First-year Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber, who coached Illinois to a 73-61 victory over Gonzaga in 2010’s Battle in Seattle, said the reputation of the Bulldogs makes the game important for the Wildcats.

“This is a great opportunity to test our team against one of the best in the country in a great venue,” Weber stated in a press release. “Mark (Few) has built Gonzaga into an annual NCAA Tournament contender and he will again have another strong club in 2012-13.  I think these types of games are a huge benefit to your team, especially to a veteran club like we have coming back in the fall.”

Gonzaga has made 14 straight trips to the NCAA tournament, a current streak that is shorter only than those held by Kansas (23), Duke (17) and Michigan State (15). The Bulldogs have won 11 of the last 12 West Coast Conference regular season championships. In 2012, Gonzaga finished 26-7, its 15th straight 20-win season, and exited the tournament in the third round after a loss to Ohio State.

Last year the Wildcats won at least 20 games for the sixth year in a row, making the NCAA tournament for the fourth time in five seasons. After closing out the season with a 22-11 record, Kansas State – like Gonzaga – went down in the third round of the tournament, losing to No. 2 seed Syracuse.

Kansas State is 2-0 against Gonzaga all-time, and Weber is 3-1 against the Bulldogs.

Just over a week after the Battle in Seattle, the Wildcats will take on another big non-conference name, but this time in a venue that is closer to home. On Dec. 22 Kansas State will face Florida, who made it to the Elite Eight in the 2012 NCAA tournament, at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.

Weber is absolutely correct that these games will test his team. While it is uncertain at the moment how the Wildcats will fare against those more established contenders, I am always a fan of teams being legitimately challenged – even if they might lose – by playing reputable opponents rather than artificially inflating player and fan confidence (and national ranking) by playing teams that cannot possibly be competitive. 

On a side note, the season ticket portion of the K-State website includes pictures of Rodney McGruder, Jordan Henriquez, Martavious Irving, Angel Rodriguez, Thomas Gipson and Will Spradling, so from that alone, it looks as though Weber succeeded remarkably in retaining many of the players from last season’s team.

Senior Send-Off: Wildcats win 77-58 at Bramlage

3 Mar

MANHATTAN, Kan. – If you only watched Kansas State play in Bramlage Coliseum on this particular Saturday, you would be shocked to know that before this game the Wildcats had won just four of eight there this season. Kansas State pummeled Oklahoma State 77-58 and ended the regular season on the strongest possible note.

Rodney McGruder led the Wildcats in scoring yet again with 24 points, but seniors Jamar Samuels and Victor Ojeleye still earned their Senior Day spotlight, both performing singularly well in their final game in the Octagon of Doom.

Ojeleye, a two-time captain and Academic All-American, started the game for the first time and immediately made his presence known by taking a charge. He also scored the team’s first basket. He finished with two points, two rebounds and some significant defense in 16 minutes on the floor.

Samuels also made his last home game a memorable one, earning his 13th double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Chosen to shoot free throws in place of Jordan Henriquez when the junior got knocked in the mouth, Samuels was perfect from the charity stripe in the game. He also had a steal.

“He’s been zoned in,” coach Frank Martin said. “You have different relationships with every player you coach, and you have different experiences with them, and you take different paths with them … I don’t think I’ve ever been as proud of somebody for the maturity and growth that he has displayed over the last year.”

Senior Day at Bramlage began with recognition of Victor Ojeleye and Jamar Samuels. Ojeleye walked with his mom, giving her a big hug before she wiped the tears from his face. Samuels appeared emotional as well, walking with Frank Martin’s wife Anya because his mom’s flight was delayed. His family arrived midway through the game and received a standing ovation at halftime.

The Wildcats led by seven points at the break, but they simply trampled the Cowboys coming out of halftime. After Keiton Page hit a 3-pointer, Kansas State went on a 14-0 run. Samuels sparked it with a basket, and McGruder went off for 8 straight points. Samuels scored again, and Henriquez followed his example with a layup of his own. The Wildcats led 54-36 with 15:22 remaining in the game.

6-foot-11, 270-pound junior Philip Jurick had gone down early in the first half and would never return. While Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford gave credit to Kansas State for its run at the beginning of the second half, he also acknowledged that Jurick’s injury had an impact.

“They did a good job of coming out the first two or three minutes and making a statement,” Ford said. “We didn’t respond. Our guys were down. The guys didn’t realize the extent of Philip’s injury, and once they realized that, they were down.”

C.J. Guerrero scored two straight to pull the Cowboys within 54-40, but Henriquez and McGruder quickly restored the Kansas State lead to 18 points with 11 minutes to play.

Five minutes later, the score was just slightly different, but the point spread was the same. Kansas State led 68-50 thanks to a continued effort by Samuels, who missed on all four of his attempted 3-pointers in the game but utilized the shot fake and made some impressive mid-range shots.

The crowning moment for the senior, though, came when he swished a fadeaway mid-range jumper to beat the shot clock, get fouled and make the ensuing free throw. Having given the Wildcats a 77-54 lead with 2:32 remaining, he took a seat on the bench for the last time in Bramlage.

“I watch a lot of NBA, and that’s what they do, so I just jumped into [the defender], and the ball went in,” Samuels said with a grin.

Page hit four 3-pointers in the first half to keep the Cowboys in the game early, and Guerrero picked up where he left off, scoring seven of the team’s last 11 points.

For the Wildcats, Henriquez dominated the paint, especially after freshman Marek Soucek replaced the injured Jurick. McGruder hit all four of his shots from the floor, including two 3-pointers. Henriquez scored 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting and grabbed 8 rebounds in yet another powerful performance.

Page played all 40 minutes and finished with 22 points and 5 rebounds. His only real help in scoring came from Guerrero, who scored 15.

Wildcats fall 59-53 in Bramlage to rival Jayhawks

14 Feb

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Jamar Samuels issued his final challenge to archrival Kansas in Bramlage Coliseum on Monday night. The Jayhawks had won 35 of the last 38 meetings of the teams. One of Kansas State’s rare wins in the series came last year. While Samuels made a convincing case for a repeat upset, it was not enough.

The senior scored 20 points and snagged 12 rebounds. He helped stymie player of the year candidate Thomas Robinson, who emerged with just 10 points.

“I just wanted to beat them,” Samuels said. “You’ve got a big-time team coming into your home, and it’s a rivalry game, and you want to win.”

The veteran performance of Samuels stood in sharp contrast to the youthful mistakes that plagued them in a 59-53 loss.

Freshman guard Angel Rodriguez, who has buoyed the Wildcats in many recent games, hindered them against the No. 4 Jayhawks by committing seven turnovers.

Kansas State also had a difficult shooting night, converting just 20 of 65 attempts. Rodney McGruder scored 12 points, and Will Spradling added 10. The two combined for 9-of-28 shooting from the floor.

Kansas employed the triangle-and-two defense to slow down a Wildcats offense that already struggled with sluggishness.

“They’re made to get you to stand around,” coach Frank Martin said. “It got the mission accomplished. It got us to stand around, and they slowed us down.”

That said, the Wildcats had myriad opportunities late in the game after battling back from a 28-18 halftime deficit.

With 1:15 to play, McGruder hit a jumper that put the Wildcats within 55-51. They had several opportunities in the next minute, most of which came on mistakes by Tyshawn Taylor. In quick succession, he missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity at the foul line, turned the ball over and missed another free throw that would have increased the Kansas lead.

Robinson made a pair of foul shots to put the Jayhawks up 57-51.

With 8 seconds left on the clock, McGruder hit another big shot to cut the deficit to four points again. By then, though, it was too late.

“Self-destructed,” Martin said. “That happens to us. When you’ve got grown men playing for you, it makes our guys look like little kids in that moment.”

Kansas State had put itself in position to win, but it could not maintain that stronghold as the game progressed.

The Wildcats launched a 12-4 run out of halftime to climb within two points of the Jayhawks, 32-30. Spradling started the scoring spree with his first basket of the game. Thomas Gipson nailed a pair of free throws, and Samuels incited some much-needed momentum by sinking two 3-pointers.

The emergence of Jordan Henriquez – with an emphatic slam followed by a workmanlike layup – allowed the Wildcats to tie the game at 34 early in the second half. Later, another free throw by Gipson gave Kansas State its first lead, 37-36.

Consecutive 3-pointers by Taylor and a bucket down low by Jeff Withey quickly restored the Jayhawks’ lead, 44-37. With six and a half minutes to play, Kansas led by 10 again, just as it had at the break.

In the first half the Wildcats made just 22.6 percent of their field goals. Samuels and McGruder accounted for all the team’s points save for one basket by Gipson.

“You play a good team like Kansas, when you get a crack, you’ve got to make it,” Martin said. “I told our guys, ‘I don’t know what to tell you. You’ve got an open shot, you’ve got to make it.”

Wildcats lose to Longhorns in Austin in one-sided foulfest

11 Feb

The Longhorns shot 48 free throws. The Wildcats shot 12 free throws – and none in the second half. Predictably, Texas parlayed its enormous advantage at the foul line into a come-from-behind 75-64 victory in Austin.

The Wildcats led 40-27 at halftime but ended up falling to 6-6 in conference play in a stunning loss. While players did not speak to the media, coach Frank Martin credited Texas for attacking and defending their own court and quickly turned the focus to the future.

“We have the same opportunity on Monday,” Martin said.

The Wildcats have just the remainder of today and Sunday to recover from the loss and prepare for their Big Monday matchup with No. 10 Kansas. In the teams’ first meeting this season, which coincided with the beginning of Big 12 play, the Jayhawks delivered a resounding defeat of the Wildcats, 67-49, in Allen Fieldhouse.

As such is the case, Kansas State has a powerful distraction from its collapse and subsequent loss on Saturday afternoon. Against Texas, the Wildcats made 51.9 percent of their shots in the first half but only 32.3 percent of their shots in the second half. Conversely, the Longhorns made 28 percent of their shots in the first half and continued to convert 68.8 percent in the second half.

While the foul discrepancy was outlandish, the differences in shooting percentages clarify the picture. The Wildcats had a variety of scoring in the first half with Adrian Diaz dominating inside early while Rodney McGruder and Will Spradling found some rhythm from the outside. Myck Kabongo exploited Kansas State’s defense often early, but the Wildcats went on a 21-6 run to end the half with a 13-point lead.

In the second half, Texas jumped out to a 16-4 run to pull within 44-43 of the Wildcats. Kansas State fought the advances for awhile, but eventually the Longhorns took a 56-54 lead and never relinquished it. Neither McGruder nor Spradling scored, and the Wildcats’ big men played limited minutes because of the foul trouble.

J’Covan Brown scored 23 points, and Alex Wangmene added 15 points and 13 rebounds. Angel Rodriguez led Kansas State with 15 points.

Wildcats win despite lack of enthusiasm, poor shooting

7 Feb

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Assistant coaches warned Frank Martin that the coming game might not be much fun.

The lack of enthusiasm that they detected early showed throughout the 65-46 victory over Texas Tech. The Wildcats walked away with the win despite allowing an 18-3 run late in the second half.

“It’s called immaturity,” Martin said. “Not respecting the fact that your senior teammates are down to eight opportunities. Not respecting the fact that your team is down to eight opportunities.”

Shane Southwell scored 13 and Rodney McGruder and Will Spradling each added 10 points as the Wildcats sent the Red Raiders packing for the second time this season.

Kansas State stormed out of halftime with a 14-3 run that increased its advantage to 45-20. The scoring contrasted sharply to a first half of miserably stale and off-the-mark offense for both teams.

For Texas Tech, the scoring drought dragged on. The Red Raiders would not score their first field goal of the second half until nearly 10 minutes had passed. In that time, they scored a total of 5 points.

At that point, the Wildcats led 47-22. The Red Raiders refused to throw in the towel, however. Slowly but surely, Texas Tech chipped away at the deficit.

Luke Adams hit the team’s first 3-pointer of the game to cut the Wildcats’ lead to 49-29 with under 8 minutes to play.

On the strength of several more long-range baskets from Adams, the Red Raiders reeled off an 18-3 run to cut the lead to 50-40 with just under 3 minutes to play.

From there, a volley of free throws ensued. Adrian Diaz widened the lead to 15 points as he rebounded his own miss on the back end of the one-and-one and slammed it home for one of the few memorable moments in the game.

The free throws continued, increasing the Wildcats’ lead and stretching out even longer what had been a painful game to watch.

That being said, the second half was magical compared to the previous 20 minutes.

Kansas State and Texas Tech each made just 6 field goals in the first half. The Red Raiders scored on just 30 percent of their shots from the floor, but that looked like the picture of competence next to the 23.1-percent shooting of the Wildcats.

After an agony of occasional back-and-forth scoring – and then a complete lack of scoring for over five minutes – Kansas State led 23-15 with just under 2 minutes to play in the first half.

A string of 8 free throws between Spradling, Southwell and Martavious Irving created more respectable distance and gave the Wildcats a 31-17 lead at halftime.

After the first 20 minutes, no player had scored in double figures.

“We got real stagnant in the first half,” Southwell said. “We weren’t moving, weren’t passing the ball, so we need to keep working on our spread offense.”

The Wildcats next face Texas in Austin on Saturday.