MANHATTAN — The holiday break started great for Kansas States basketball team. The Wildcats knocked off then-No. 8 Florida before Christmas and moved into the Top 25.
Since then, trouble. Weather trouble. Travel trouble. Injury trouble. With those forces conspiring against them, the 25th-ranked Wildcats needed a late burst to hold off UMKC 52-44 on Saturday in front of a seasons best crowd of 12,528 at Bramlage Coliseum.
It all went the other way, Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. Its hard to come down off a big high and you had a huge high against Florida. Now you go home and everybodys telling you how good you are and youre eating Christmas turkey and fudge.
The Wildcats didnt practice as much as planned because of travel delays. Starting point guard Angel Rodriguez didnt play because of tendinitis in his foot. Reserve guard Martavious Irving injured his knee in Fridays practice. With their prep work scrambled, the Wildcats (10-2) played sloppily on offense.
Thats not an excuse, Kansas State guard Rodney McGruder said. Coach always talks about situations like this. We prepare for situations like this, but we could have played better than we did.
They missed 15 of 31 free throws and shot 32.1 percent from the floor. The Wildcats missed Rodriquez running the offense because it forced Will Spradling to handle the ball and removed his shooting and movement from the offense.
You would think turning them over 19 times and getting 19 offensive rebounds, the score would be a bigger margin, Weber said. We won with defense.
UMKC stayed in the game with offensive rebounds and its own solid defense. McGruder scored 17 points, needing 17 shots. Center Thomas Gipson added 13 and Nino Williams went 3 of 12 to score eight points. Williams also grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds.
The Kangaroos (4-9) handled Kansas States talent much better than meetings with ranked teams Ohio State and Louisville. Thomas Staton led UMKC with 13 points off the bench. Center Fred Chatmon added nine points and a career-high 16 rebounds.
Im disappointed, UMKC coach Matt Brown said. Our guys were kind of excited, truthfully, that we were only down four at the half. I was upset we were not up five.
It took a three-point play by Williams, with 3:11 to play, for the Wildcats to build a significant cushion, up 43-36. McGruder followed with a floater in the lane for a 45-36 lead. After UMKC free throws, Williams banked in a shot for a 47-38 lead. Despite struggles at the foul line, the Wildcats held on.
Kansas State stretched its lead to seven points three times early in the second half. Each time, UMKC rallied. Kansas States sloppy offense cost it after it built a 36-29 lead. The Wildcats missed their next five shots and committed two turnovers, helping UMKC cut the lead to 36-33.
Kansas State led 37-34 when UMKCs Brad Reid faked a handoff near the foul line, turned and drove to the basket. He dunked one-handed over two Wildcats, but Williams voided the basket by stepping in at the last moment to take a charge.
I was just in help-side and he was rolling to the basket, Williams said. I ran over and took the charge.
Instead of a potential three-point play and tie game, UMKC had to recover from another turnover.
We were really excited to get that play, and it got taken from us, UMKC guard Estan Tyler said.
The turnover handed the Wildcats momentum and, again, they wasted it. After Spradlings layup, the Wildcats missed their next two shots and Gipson missed the front end of a one-and-one.
The Wildcats looked sharp early in the game. They worked the ball inside for easy baskets and their man-to-man defense forced four turnovers on UMKCs first five possessions. Kansas State led 7-0 on Gipsons free throws with 17:08 to play and didnt allow a UMKC basket until Staton made a corner three with 16:49 to remaining.
Kansas State responded with a 5-0 run, helped by another UMKC turnover, to go up 12-3. It lead 20-9, after forcing three consecutive turnovers, and appeared in shape to reward the seasons best Bramlage crowd with a blowout. The Wildcats, shooting poorly and giving up offensive rebounds, didnt deliver.
Then it was just atrocious, Weber said. We got a little complacent.
UMKC scored nine second-chance points off eight offensive rebounds in the first half, part of its 21-16 rebounding edge. While Kansas State forced 14 turnovers, seven on steals, it scored 12 points off those turnovers and still shot 9 of 29 from the field for the half.
UMKC scored twice to cut the lead to 20-14 stayed close the rest of the half. A putback by Chatmon, who grabbed 10 rebounds in the half, cut the lead to 21-16. Another by Chatmon made it 23-18. Even back-to-back turnovers by UMKC went to waste for the Wildcats. Given that chance, they turned the ball over twice and missed a shot and two free throws. Statons three, after an offensive rebound, brought the Kangaroos within 23-21. A dunk by Gipson made it 25-21 at halftime.