Behind a strong performance from senior guard Rodney McGruder, the K-State men’s basketball team defeated the University of South Carolina-Upstate 72-53 Sunday afternoon in Bramlage Coliseum. McGruder finished the day with a season-high 22 points.
“We were a little sluggish to start out,” said head coach Bruce Weber. “I think it was nine days without a game. We scrimmaged with refs on Wednesday just to simulate some game conditions, but it is not the same.”
The score was close early in the game, with K-State only up 3 points, but a 13-0 run near the end of the first half gave K-State a 36-20 lead going into halftime.
Junior guard Omari Lawrence was a big contributor for the Wildcats during the 13-0 run, hitting two 3-pointers. Lawrence finished with 10 points in the game, all coming in the first half.
“I thought that our pressure and our energy was much better, we were more patient, we had better ball movement,” Weber said. “We had quick shots and turnovers in the earlier possessions.”
Filling in for senior forward Jordan Henriquez in the starting rotations was sophomore Thomas Gipson. Henriquez did not play because of minor back spasms ailing him earlier in the week, according to Weber. Gipson was a big contributor for the Wildcats in his first start of the season, finishing with 11 points and seven rebounds.
“Well, it is not really about starting for me. I always come in and make an impact whether I am starting or sitting on the bench,” Gipson said. “I just have the same mentality whether I am starting or not and that is what I did today.”
Even though it is early in the season, the Wildcats have been bitten by the injury bug. Sophomore guard Angel Rodriguez played limited minutes Saturday with a nagging foot injury, while junior guard Shane Southwell joined Henriquez on the bench during the whole game. At the same time, it appeared that the Wildcats did benefit from the long rest after their trip to New York.
“Speaking for myself, I would say it was really beneficial for us. It just allowed us to get back to doing the things that we normally do,” McGruder said. “I think before, we were mentally off against Michigan. I do not think we were well prepared to play them. We just had time this whole week to get back to doing what we do best. That is just playing with all the energy, rebounding and defensive help. That was the main key today.”
K-State will be back in action on Dec. 8 at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
“We have a big, big game next Saturday against George Washington, to get a road win, would be a huge deal to us, both confidence-wise and resume-wise,” Weber said. “Obviously for Rodney to go home and the other guys from out east is a big deal.”