When Kansas State shoots well it doesn't much matter who it puts on the court. That's what they proved Thursday night during an easy 80-64 victory over UMKC at Bramlage Coliseum.
That's what they proved Thursday night during an easy 80-64 victory over UMKC at Bramlage Coliseum.
With their two seniors -- Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly -- out while serving suspensions for receiving impermissible benefits in the form of clothing from an area department store, shorthanded K-State more than made up for their absences by passing the ball and making outside shots.
Coming off back-to-back losses to Florida and UNLV and 48 hours of negative publicity, it was exactly what coach Frank Martin was hoping to see.
"That's what I'm about and that's what my team is about," Martin said. "Even though we had issues off the court and we had issues winning games, our team didn't fall apart. On the contrary, we became a closer knit team."
That much was evident in the way K-State players behaved during Thursday's victory.
While sophomore small forward Rodney McGruder was stepping outside to make a career-high seven 3-pointers on his way to 24 points, freshman point guard Will Spradling was adding 15 points and three assists and Wally Judge was registering a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds, the Wildcats' bench was filled with smiles.
Judge showed positive emotions for the first time in weeks, and junior forward Jamar Samuels continually giggled and applauded Martin as he argued fouls with the officials. It was a complete reversal from the team's loss to UNLV two days prior, when the postgame locker room was filled with despair and Martin's screams.
Martin was in such a good mood Thursday that he said goodbye to K-State color commentator Stan Weber with a kiss on the cheek at the conclusion of their postgame television interview.
"I've got the Christmas spirit," Martin later said. "Our guys fought their tails off, we played halfway decent, and we won."
That all went back to the team-oriented style K-State sported from start to finish.
Unlike when its two most highly regarded players have been in the lineup, the Wildcats (10-3) didn't struggle to make effective passes or drain open shots. Coming into Thursday's action, K-State was averaging 13.8 assists and 6.41 three-pointers per game. Against UMKC (7-5), they dished out 20 assists and made 11 threes.
Both were welcome stat lines, and reinforced Martin's belief that the Wildcats starting showing fight and leadership for the first time all season against UNLV.
"We came in with a lot more intensity," Spradling said. "And when we come in with an intensity we're going to start playing defense, we're going to get out and we're going to run. That makes the game more fun for us. That's the way we want to play."
K-State is next in action on Dec. 31 at home against North Florida. UMKC is off until Tuesday when it hosts North Dakota State.
First HalfKey Play: Will Spradling scored K-State's first field goal of the game by making a three pointer to give K-State a 4-2 lead. It was a sign of things to come.
Key Stat: K-State outrebounded UMKC 26-16
Second HalfKey Play: Rodney McGruder made his seventh, and final, three-pointer of the evening to give his team a 78-61 lead.
Key Stat: The Wildcats made 29 field goals and dished out 20 assists.
NO UPDATE ON KELLY: Frank Martin said he had no update on the status of Curtis Kelly. The senior forward is suspended indefinitely. Martin said he had conversations with K-State's compliance staff earlier in the day, and hopes a resolution will come in the near future. For the second straight game, Kelly and Pullen (who still has one game to go in his suspension) were not present with their team. Martin said he told both players he did not want to see them until after Christmas.
MCGRUDER RECOVERED WELL: Against UNLV, Rodney McGruder lost part of a tooth while falling to the floor fighting for a loose ball. He played Thursday's game with a fat lip and said he spent much of the past 48 hours at the dentist having a root canal done.