Tag Archives: Michigan Madison Square Garden

Wildcats advance to championship round of NIT tournament

22 Nov

Kansas State squeaked by Delaware 66-63 in Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night, and No. 4 Michigan emerged victorious from a similarly competitive game against Pittsburgh, 67-62.

As a result, the Wildcats will have a top five opponent on the books in just their sixth game of the season.

Undoubtedly, Friday’s game against Michigan will be a challenge, but Kansas State coach Bruce Weber sees it as a great opportunity.

“If you want to be good, you have to play good teams and learn,” he said. “You’re going to play good teams in the Big 12, there’s no doubt about it.”

In Wednesday’s win over Delaware, the Wildcats got 12 points each from Will Spradling, Angel Rodriguez and Thomas Gipson. Rodney McGruder and Shane Southwell both added 8.

Spradling also contributed seven assists and zero turnovers. The Wildcats shot a magical 12 of 14 from the free throw line, good for 85.7 percent, which included outstanding efforts from Rodriguez (6-7) and Spradling (4-4).

Of course, as might be expected with such a close final score, the game was not all roses.

“We did not play pretty,” Weber said. “That was pretty obvious. It had been so good for us at home, and we had defended so well, made shots, and the games came easy. Now it didn’t come quite as easy. We missed a lot of easy shots, made some mistakes defensively.”

Once again, the Wildcats survived in large part because of their depth. Though Spradling, Rodriguez, McGruder, Gipson and freshman forward D.J. Johnson separated themselves by playing at least half the game, nine players on the roster saw at nine minutes or more.

Weber has been giving nearly everyone significant court time to this point in the season, and it paid off Wednesday because he felt comfortable using those players against Delaware. Fresh legs make a huge difference, and that is something on which Kansas State have capitalized on multiple occasions.

“I want depth to be part of our brand,” Weber said. “If we can do that, that’s going to really add to an opponent trying to figure out who’s in there.”

The basketball Wildcats have operated largely under the radar early in the season because the football Wildcats have been so successful. Instead of the media microscope scrutinizing the first-year coach tasked with replacing the popular Frank Martin, the lens has been focused solely on the until-Saturday-undefeated season of the Kansas State team on the gridiron.

With the national championship in football no longer an option and a basketball game against a marquee opponent approaching, that may change.

However Friday’s game turns out, it will likely shape fans’ and pundits’ expectations and evaluations for the rest of the season.

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