First Posted: 2/23/2013
(AP) Rodney McGruder scored 20 points and No. 13 Kansas State stayed in the race for their first regular season conference championship since 1977 with an 81-69 victory over Texas on Saturday night.
Four players scored in double figures for the Wildcats (22-5, 11-3 Big 12), who share first place in the Big 12 with No. 9 Kansas. Kansas State made nine 3-pointers, shooting 50 percent from long range against a Texas defense ranked first in the country in defending the perimeter.
Myck Kabongo had 24 points, the most he’s scored in four games since returning from a 23-game NCAA suspension. Texas (12-15, 4-10) is 2-2 since his return, languishing near the bottom of the Big 12 in the Longhorns’ worst season in 15 years under coach Rick Barnes.
Kansas State was 20 of 22 on free throws, including 8 of 8 by Angel Rodriguez, who finished with 16 points and six assists.
Kansas State beat Texas by 26 points in their first meeting and came into this one with an eye for testing the Longhorns from long range. Kansas State’s first three field goals were 3-pointers.
The Wildcats built a 29-19 lead and looked to be in complete control in the first half but a rash of fouls sent Texas to the free throw line 22 times in the half.
Texas trimmed the lead to three points in the final minute before Rodriguez made two free throws and a Texas turnover set up a 3-pointer by Shane Southwell at the buzzer. Texas was trying to set up for the final shot, but Kabongo dribbled the ball off his left foot. Omari Lawrence scooped up the loose ball and passed to Southwell for the running-3-pointer that made it 40-32.
The Wildcats quickly asserted control in the second half, opening a 15-point lead. Rodriguez sparked the run with an easy steal at midcourt and layup and Will Spradling was surrounded by three Texas players and still won a scramble a loose ball at their feet to set up a layup by Thomas Gipson. Southwell made two more 3-pointers and the Wildcats led 65-46 with about 10 minutes to play.
Kansas State has four games left to chase its first regular season conference championship since the Wildcats won the old Big Eight title in 1976-77. Kansas State’s best finish in the Big 12 has been a tie for second in 2010.
The Wildcats have already tied their school record for Big 12 wins.