MANHATTAN, Kan. — Shortly after Kansas State beat Florida for its first signature victory of the season last week, Rodney McGruder and Jordan Henriquez started looking ahead.
By KELLIS ROBINETT
The Kansas City Star
They talked about how it was a confidence boost, how it would earn the Wildcats national respect and how it gave them momentum heading into Big 12 play.
Their comments were accurate, but K-State coach Bruce Weber had a message for them as they walked away.
“I would like to remind both of them we are not done with nonconference yet,” Weber said.
Indeed, the Wildcats may be finished with the hardest part of their nonconference schedule, but games against UMKC and South Dakota remain before Oklahoma State comes to Bramlage Coliseum for the league opener on Jan. 5.
No. 25 K-State will be favored to win both games, but Weber hopes his team shows the same intensity Saturday against the Kangaroos that it did against the Gators. Lose, and the Wildcats can kiss their ranking goodbye.
“There is a long way to go,” Weber said. “This was one win.”
K-State players understand the challenge. Though they were giddy about their performance at the Sprint Center, they also remember what happened to them against Gonzaga and Michigan when they didn’t practice well leading up to those games.
Of all the things that were different against Florida — a loud friendly crowd, improved shooting and intensity — the biggest difference came on the practice floor leading up to tipoff.
“We were in tune with one another,” said McGruder, a senior swingman. “Our preparation for Florida was great. It was tremendous. Our last couple practices, guys were getting after one another. That was key. We figured out it all starts in practice. We just have to all compete and get after one another.”
Henriquez, a senior forward, had a similar epiphany after the Florida win.
“We just have to be ready to play every night,” he said.
This will be the 17th meeting between UMKC and Kansas State since the ’Roos joined Division I. The Wildcats lead the series 15-1, including a 80-64 win in the teams’ last meeting on Dec. 23, 2010, in Manhattan. UMKC’s only win in the series was a shocking 93-52 blowout at Municipal Auditorium on Dec. 30, 2003.
To reach Kellis Robinett, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/KellisRobinett.