MANHATTAN, Kan. — The holiday break started great for Kansas State’s basketball team. The Wildcats knocked off then-No. 8 Florida before Christmas and moved into the top 25.
By PAUL SUELLENTROP
The Wichita Eagle
Since then, trouble. Weather trouble. Travel trouble. Injury trouble.
With those forces conspiring against them, the 25th-ranked Wildcats needed a late burst to hold off UMKC 52-44 on Saturday in front of a season’s-best crowd of 12,528 at Bramlage Coliseum.
“It all went the other way,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. “It’s hard to come down off a big high, and you had a huge high against Florida. Now you go home and everybody’s telling you how good you are and you’re eating Christmas turkey and fudge.”
The Wildcats, 10-2, didn’t practice as much as planned because of travel delays. Starting point guard Angel Rodriguez didn’t play because of tendinitis in his foot. Reserve guard Martavious Irving injured his knee in Friday’s practice. With their prep work scrambled, the Wildcats played sloppily on offense.
“That’s not an excuse,” Kansas State guard Rodney McGruder said. “Coach always talks about situations like this. We prepare for situations like this, but we could have played better than we did.”
The Wildcats missed 15 of 31 free throws and shot 32.1 percent from the floor. They missed Rodriquez because it forced Will Spradling to handle the ball more and removed his shooting from the offense.
“You would think turning them over 19 times and getting 19 offensive rebounds, the score would be a bigger margin,” Weber said. “We won with defense.”
UMKC stayed in the game with offensive rebounds and its own solid defense.
McGruder scored 17 points, needing 17 shots. Center Thomas Gipson added 13, and Nino Williams grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds.
The Kangaroos, 4-9, handled Kansas State’s talent much better than in their meetings with ranked teams Ohio State and Louisville. Reserve Thomas Staton led UMKC with 13 points, and center Fred Chatmon added nine points and a career-high 16 rebounds.
“I’m disappointed,” UMKC coach Matt Brown said. “Our guys were kind of excited, truthfully, that we were only down four at the half. I was upset we were not up five.”
Kansas State led 37-34 when UMKC’s Brad Reid faked a handoff near the free-throw line, turned and drove to the basket. He dunked one-handed over two Wildcats, but Williams voided the basket by stepping in at the last moment to take a charge.
Instead of a potential three-point play and a tie game, UMKC had to recover from another turnover.
“We were really excited to get that play, and it got taken from us,” UMKC guard Estan Tyler said.
The turnover handed the Wildcats momentum, but they wasted it. After a Spradling layup, the Wildcats missed their next two shots and Gipson missed the front end of a one-and-one.
It took a three-point play by Williams with 3:11 to play for the Wildcats to build a significant cushion, up 43-36. McGruder followed with a floater in the lane for a 45-36 lead. After two UMKC free throws, Williams banked in a shot for a 47-38 lead.
Early, K-State looked sharp, going up 7-0 and then 20-9.
The Wildcats appeared in shape to reward the season’s best Bramlage crowd with a blowout. The Wildcats, shooting poorly and giving up offensive rebounds, didn’t deliver.
“Then it was just atrocious,” Weber said. “We got a little complacent.”