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NCAA TOURNAMENT: K-STATE 70, S. MISS. 64 McGruder sparks K-State to 70-64 victory over Southern Miss

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, March 15, 2012, at 12:47 p.m.
  • Updated Sunday, May 11, 2014, at 1:13 p.m.

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Wildcat report

Thursday’s Box Score

Southern Mississippi (64)

Min

FG-A

FT-A

OR-TR

A

PF

PT

Page

40

5-16

2-2

0-4

1

1

15

Bolden

18

1-4

2-6

1-1

0

3

4

McGill

15

0-0

0-0

1-2

0

1

0

Johnson

30

4-13

0-0

0-4

1

5

9

Mills

18

0-2

1-2

0-1

1

3

1

Dodson

23

5-12

3-3

5-10

1

5

14

Watson

30

5-11

4-4

0-4

3

4

16

Jenkins

6

2-2

0-0

1-1

0

2

5

Pelham

20

0-0

0-0

3-4

1

1

0

Totals

200

22-60

12-17

13-34

8

25

64

Percentages: FG .367, FT .706. 3-Point Goals: 8-23, .348 (Page 3-10, Watson 2-5, Jenkins 1-1, Johnson 1-2, Dodson 1-4, Bolden 0-1). Team Rebounds: 3. Blocked Shots: 0. Turnovers: 10 (Watson 5, Pelham 2, Mills, McGill, Dodson). Steals: 8 (Dodson 4, Mills, Page, Watson, Pelham). Technical Fouls: None.

Kansas State (70)

Min

FG-A

FT-A

OR-TR

A

PF

PT

Rodriguez

27

4-11

5-8

0-3

4

2

13

Henriquez

33

3-6

9-10

3-9

2

4

15

McGruder

37

11-16

6-8

1-4

0

2

30

Samuels

27

0-0

1-2

1-8

3

3

1

Spradling

37

1-4

0-0

0-0

1

2

2

Southwell

13

0-1

0-0

0-4

1

1

0

Irving

13

1-3

2-2

0-0

1

1

4

Ojeleye

2

0-0

0-0

0-0

0

0

0

Gipson

11

1-1

3-4

0-3

0

3

5

Totals

200

21-42

26-34

5-31

12

18

70

Percentages: FG .500, FT .765. 3-Point Goals: 2-12, .167 (McGruder 2-5, Irving 0-1, Rodriguez 0-3, Spradling 0-3). Team Rebounds: 0. Blocked Shots: 7 (Henriquez 6, Samuels). Turnovers: 11 (Rodriguez 3, Irving 2, Gipson 2, Henriquez 2, Southwell 2). Steals: 4 (McGruder 4). Technical Fouls: None.

Southern Miss.

27

37

64

Kansas St.

30

40

70

Att.–NA. Officials–Karl Hess, Terry Wymer, Gene Steratore.

Setting the record

In the process of setting a school record for blocks in a postseason game (six), Jordan Henriquez set a K-State single-season record with 77 blocks. He’s already the Wildcats’ career shot-blocking leader.

“He’s giving us a great defensive presence,” freshman Thomas Gipson said. “The guards trust him because they know when a guy gets by them he will stay back and block the shot. He was telling everyone before the game, ‘Don’t try to take a charge, because I’m going to be right there.’ That’s what he did. He blocked a lot of shots.”

He also scored 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds. About the only thing he didn’t do well was avoid fouls. He committed four, and had to come out for key stretches of the second half to avoid fouling out.

But when he was in the game, he made his 33 minutes count.

“I was trying to block every shot that came to the rim,” Henriquez said. “Today’s game gave me confidence.”

Turning up the D

One of the most important stretches came in the second half with Henriquez on the bench in foul trouble. K-State was leading 53-51, but Southern Miss seemed ready to make a push without a shot-blocker in its way.

The Golden Eagles didn’t take advantage, trailing by three when Henriquez returned with 2:25 to go.

Gipson and Jamar Samuels were key during that stretch.

“Jamar was real good defensively when Jordan came out,” K-State coach Frank Martin said. “They were going right at him to get him in foul trouble, but Jamar went to the right places. Thomas Gipson, who didn’t play well early in the game, made some free throws and helped us.”

K-State also ran quality halfcourt offense during that stretch and kept the ball away from the Golden Eagles. Gipson was thrilled to contribute.

“My mindset was just to come in and replace (Jordan) and do whatever I can to keep the lead,” Gipson said. “I got some defensive rebounds, I made the free throws I needed to make. It was good for me. I remained positive and brought everything I had.”

Another step

Martin is 4-0 in NCAA Tournament openers. To be going back to the round of 32 is still a great feeling.

“We’ve elevated our program to one of the better programs in the country,” Martin said. “We have been in this thing consistently. I don’t know how many people can claim they’ve been in it four out of five years.”

1,000-point club

McGruder’s big game pushed him over the 1,000-point mark (1,014). His 30 points is a Consol Energy Center record, passing 27 by Scotty Hopson of Tennessee.

Kansas State prepares for Southern Mississippi

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— The game had been over for several minutes and Kansas State’s locker room was packed, but nobody wanted to celebrate. Not yet, anyway. The Wildcats were a man down.

How could they enjoy a 70-64 victory over Southern Mississippi in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday at Consol Energy Center until Rodney McGruder, the man most responsible for the win, was with them?

After his 30 points, four rebounds and four steals in a game that was anything but an offensive showcase, they wanted to show their appreciation by clapping, shouting and bouncing around with him.

So they waited until McGruder finished his on-court interview responsibilities, waved to fans and made the walk back to the locker room. When he opened the door, the place erupted.

“He is one of the top players in the country in terms of all-around game,” senior forward Victor Ojeleye said. “He rebounds it, chases guys around on defense and scores the ball. He really came up big for us.”

“He’s the main reason we won,” sophomore guard Will Spradling said.

“Praise Rodney,” senior forward Jamar Samuels said.

McGruder has been one of K-State’s most important players all season. He’s the scoring leader and has had plenty of big games. But he eclipsed all that on Thursday.

He made 11 of 16 shots, drained two three-pointers and got to the free-throw line eight times. He was unstoppable from mid-range and provided an offensive presence early, when it seemed like everyone else on the court was intimidated by the atmosphere.

While the rest of his team struggled to score, he scored 18 points in the first half and helped K-State take a 30-27 halftime lead.

“If he was in our conference, he’d be the MVP,” Southern Miss guard Angelo Johnson said. “Smart player, knocks his shots down, makes his free throws. Nice frame on him. I think he’s going to make it to the next level.”

He was so dominant that opposing fans began chanting the words “one-man team” every time he touched the ball.

The chant was meant as an insult to the Wildcats, but on this day they had no complaints. Behind McGruder, they advanced to the round of 32 for the third straight year. They will face No. 1-seed Syracuse on Saturday, which slipped past No. 16 North Carolina-Asheville on Thursday.

“I just wanted to be myself and go out there with confidence and relax,” McGruder said. “If you get too hyper, things can go wrong. I played in NCAA games before, so I was pretty relaxed and prepared. It is big-time to win in the NCAA Tournament, so I would say that is one of my best performances.”

K-State coach Frank Martin said watching McGruder gave him flashbacks to Jacob Pullen, the leading scorer in program history.

“When you see guys like him have the success he’s having individually, it makes you feel real proud, because that’s what it’s about,” Martin said. “You put in the time, you commit yourself to the people that believe in you, and you go get better. As a coach and a teammate, there’s a reason why we’re playing on Saturday, because of his personality, his work ethic, his toughness.”

K-State needed the entire package to get past Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles started slowly and couldn’t make many shots, but once they found their groove they gave the Wildcats all they could handle.

They rallied from nine down in the first half to take a 45-40 lead with 13:16 remaining. Kansas City product Neil Watson came off the bench to lead Southern Miss with 16 points, Lashay Page scored 15 and the Golden Eagles combined to make eight three-pointers.

With Jamar Samuels and Jordan Henriquez in foul trouble on K-State’s front line, the Wildcats had a fight on their hands. But McGruder kept the team calm. He told everyone in the huddle they could answer with a run of their own just as easily.

Suddenly, everyone else got going. Henriquez (15 points, nine rebounds, six blocks) made a string of free throws. Angel Rodriguez, who scored 13 points in his first NCAA Tournament game, made a nifty layup to put K-State up 48-47 and then McGruder drained a three to give K-State some breathing room.

Then Rodriguez and freshman forward Thomas Gipson made free throws to clinch the game.

“We won that game as a unit,” McGruder said. “It was big-time of us as a team.”

However you want to classify it, the victory was what the Wildcats were looking for. It gave them confidence and proved they have an elite player. Maybe even an elite player capable of guiding them past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

“Rodney did this for the first five or six Big 12 games when he averaged 27,” Samuels said. “You need five or six games to win the NCAA Championship so … you never know.”

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