For the second night in a row, Rodney McGruder took his Kansas State teammates and put them on his shoulders as he scored 25 points and Angel Rodriguez tossed in 17 as the 11th-ranked Wildcats pulled away from 14th-ranked Oklahoma State for a 68-57 victory in the Big 12 Tournament Semifinals before a tournament-record crowd of 19,160 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.
Despite making just one shot in the first five minutes of the game, K-State still held a 7-2 lead before the Cowboys got going. OSU’s largest lead was 17-12 before Rodriguez and Shane Southwell led a 12-2 run to put K-State back on top 24-19 late in the first half on the way to 28-23 halftime lead. K-State then picked up right where they left off to start the second half by scoring the first six points of the stanza to extend the advantage to 34-23. The Wildcats stretched the lead to as much as 15 points in the second half and Oklahoma State which had just beaten K-State seven days earlier in Stillwater could get no closer than eight points the rest of the way.
Kansas State (27-6) was also paced by eight points from Jordan Henriquez and seven apiece by Southwell and Martavious Irving as they advanced to their first Big 12 Final since 2010. The Wildcats will face a familiar foe as they vie for the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, the Kansas Jayhawks. Seventh-ranked KU had little trouble with Iowa State in the other semifinal cruising to an 88-73 victory.
This is K-State’s eighth trip to a Conference Tournament Championship game. The Wildcats have lost their last four outings last winning over KU on March 1, 1980.
Tipoff at Sprint Center is set for 5 p.m. Saturday with coverage beginning on the K-State Sports Network from Learfield Sports at 4 p.m.
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