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K-State 3-0 In Big 12 Play After Victory At TCU
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By Wendell Barnhouse | wendell@big12sports.com
Big12Sports.com Correspondent

FORT WORTH, Texas - Winning road games in conference play can be accomplished in various ways. No. 16 Kansas State displayed a number of them.

The Wildcats took the floor in Daniel-Meyer Coliseum to face a winless TCU team. Kansas State was coming off a tough road victory at West Virginia and its next contest is Saturday at home against Oklahoma - a clash between undefeated teams. Wednesday night's game fell into the "trap" category.

Kansas State made sure there would be no upset, taking control late in the first half and cruising to a 67-54 victory. In his first season in Manhattan, coach Bruce Weber has a deep, talented, veteran team that appears to be hitting its stride.

"I like the confidence that everyone has," said Rodney McGruder, who is starting to play like a first-team All-Big 12 selection. "We had guys come off the bench and produce and give us energy. We've got a lot of depth and a lot of different guys who can play.

"When a top 25 team goes on the road, the other team is gonna give it's all and we were prepared for that."

Six different Wildcats scored during a 19-4 run that helped Kansas State (14-2, 3-0) build a 24-14 lead with just under six minutes left in the half. TCU (9-8, 0-4) pulled back to within five but a 12-4 run to close the half gave Kansas State a 38-25 halftime lead. The Wildcats' lead grew to 25 during the second half before settling to the final margin.

The second spurt of the first half was sparked by senior Martavious Irving. He hit a 3-pointer, had a steal, forced a 10-second backcourt violation, dropped a perfect lob to Jordan Henriquez for a dunk and beat the halftime buzzer with a driving layup.

"We came out and made a statement against their guards," said Irving, who also forced another turnover with a five-second closely guarded call. "We wanted to pressure them and make them uncomfortable in their sets, made them play out of their element."

The Frogs, under first-year coach Trent Johnson, are undermanned. To compensate, they try to shorten the game by controlling tempo and the shot clock. On TCU's first four possessions in a set offense, the shot clock reached single digits.

That strategy only works if the offensive makes effective use of possessions and the opposition doesn't build a big lead. The Frogs shot 37.5 percent.

"Kansas State reminds me of some of the good teams I've had," said Johnson, whose team plays host to Iowa State Saturday. "They play the game like it's supposed to be played and that's how I want us to play. But right now, we're not ready to compete with teams like this."

McGruder scored 21 and was the only K-State player in double figures. However, eight other players scored and three of those had eight points. Over his last seven games - all victories - McGruder is averaging 19.6 points per game while shooting 48.6 percent from the field and 38.9 percent on 3-pointers. It's apparent he has adjusted to Weber's motion offense.

"Rodney's more comfortable and getting a feel for how to play on the offensive end," Weber said. "He's starting to figure it out. Before this, there were times when he wasn't sure what a good shot was. I told him to stop looking at me and just shoot the ball."

McGruder made half of his six 3-point attempts and scored his other baskets on strong, swooping drives into the lane. Weber's offense asks for his post men to screen for teammates making hard cuts and curls. Run effectively - as K-State did against TCU - it can leave defenders flailing.

"It's a fun offense," McGruder said. "There's a lot of movement, no set plays. It's hard for the other team to guard."

Henriquez, a 6-11 senior, started last season but lost his starting job earlier this season. He played 24 minutes and finished with eight points and 10 rebounds. Adrian Diaz, a 6-10 sophomore, played 17 minutes and scored eight points. He had scored a total of eight points in his six previous games.

"We realized in the summer that we have a lot of different weapons," Henriquez said. "I like the makeup of this team. It can be a different guy who makes the difference every game."

Weber says he has eight starters and his playing rotation can go 10 deep. It's a versatile group that combines size and quickness. And Weber liked how they took care of business.

"We got off to a slow start which you can expect considering we're in the middle of some big games," Weber said. "I told 'em this game is just as important as winning at West Virginia and you've got to be ready to play. We got great leadership from our seniors and bench.

"Now, we go home and play Oklahoma, Lon Kruger is coming back to (Manhattan) and it's another big game for us."

 

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