There is something about the NCAA Tournament that agrees with Jordan Henriquez. After a disappointing season, the senior forward played his finest game since scoring 17 points and grabbing 14 rebounds against Syracuse in the third round of last year’s NCAA Tournament.
He did a little bit of everything Friday by scoring a team-high 17 points, snaring 12 rebounds and blocking five shots. He was at his best in the second half when La Salle forward Jerrell Wright left the game. Henriquez touched the ball on nearly every play and provided strong defense at the rim.
“It was very difficult just him being in the game,” Wright said. “He changed a lot of the shots. Offensively, he was very good.”
It was Henriquez’s second double-double of the season. His first came at home against Baylor. In the rest of his games, he mostly struggled, averaging 4.6 points and 4.8 rebounds. He was dominant a year ago in the NCAA Tournament, raising his intensity when the games mattered most. He did the same Friday.
At one point, he even drove the lane for a dunk.
“I just took advantage of the opportunity,” Henriquez said. “I’m not looking at my numbers. We were down and coach challenged us.”
• Bruce Weber wasn’t trying to make excuses for his team’s early exit from the NCAA Tournament, but he said both of K-State’s starting guards had been dealing with injuries.
He said Will Spradling hadn’t practiced since suffering a bruised sternum in late February, and Angel Rodriguez fought through a torn ligament in his left wrist for the past month. The injury will require surgery.
“He has barely practiced,” Weber said. “All those guys, you have to give a lot of credit to both those guys to fight through it. No excuses. That’s part of life.”
• Weber said he was upset about the loss for several reasons, but the main one was for K-State’s seniors. He thought they deserved a better sendoff.
“I just feel bad for our seniors,” Weber said. “They fought hard and played their hearts out until the end. You hate for it to come to an end it’s been a great group. … I’m so proud of them. I’m sad for them. I cry with them.
“I cry with the staff. It is hard,” Weber said. “You put so much effort into it. I couldn’t be more happy to be their coach. I hope they feel good about us being their staff. We wish them all the best.”
As the most successful senior class in program history, winning 101 games, Weber said they left a “legacy.”
“It’s just disappointing it has to end,” Weber said.
• Weber didn’t substitute much in the second half. He put Martavious Irving, Shane Southwell, Rodney McGruder, Rodriguez and Henriquez on the court at the start of the second half and only took them out to help avoid fouls and fatigue. The tournament’s long timeouts helped Weber go with a small lineup. McGruder played all 40 minutes, Southwell lasted 38 minutes and Rodriguez played 36.
• The largest deficit K-State overcame this season was seven points.
• K-State’s 18-point halftime deficit matched its biggest of the year.
• The loss ends K-State’s streak of appearances in the round of 32. The Wildcats have played for a spot in the Sweet 16 in each of the past three seasons.
| Kellis Robinett, firstname.lastname@example.org