Kansas State’s 79-70 victory over Iowa State was one of those games that makes Saturdays in the heart of college basketball season great. Both teams played well and with high energy, and it wasn’t until Rodney McGruder, Angel Rodriguez and Thomas Gipson all got going at the same time that the Wildcats were finally able to pull away.
Before that, the game was back-and-forth. With first-place in the Big 12 on the line, it was obvious both teams wanted the top spot in the conference standings.
K-State, now on a four-game winning streak, is currently a game clear of the field with a huge game coming up on Monday at Kansas. Win at Allen Fieldhouse and K-State will have a firmer lead. Lose and the race is wide open.
Until then, let’s look back at last night with another edition of player ratings:
Rodney McGruder – 9.5: What didn’t McGruder do? The senior had 22 points, five assists, foul steals and three rebounds. He hit big shots inside and out, and was active from the get-go. He has had trouble at the start of games recently, but that wasn’t the case on Saturday. K-State was a better team because of his constant contributions.
Last game: 9. Average: 8.15.
Thomas Gipson – 9: It doesn’t matter how many points or rebounds Thomas Gipson has the rest of the season, Bruce Weber should keep him out of the starting lineup. Gipson has been on an absolute tear since he started coming off the bench. A game after playing well at Texas Tech, he was dominant inside against Iowa State, scoring 16 points and grabbing six rebounds. The Cyclones out-muscled the Wildcats in their first meeting. Gipson made sure that didn’t happen in the rematch.
Last game: 7.5. Average: 6.4.
Angel Rodriguez – 8.5: K-State’s point guard is starting to find ways to get to the basket and make contested layups without getting blocked. He hurt Iowa State with 20 points, and his aggressive style altered the game. He is playing at a high level right now. The next step in his maturation process will be finding a way to score without leading the team in missed shots. He missed eight on Saturday.
Last game: 7. Average: 7.3.
Martavious Irving – 8: Irving scored 10 points for the third-straight game. He is thriving in his new role as K-State’s sixth man. On Saturday, he hit two three-pointers and, as usual, supplied strong defense.
Last game: 7.5. Average: 6.75.
Shane Southwell – 6.75: Southwell told me he thought he played “horrible” at Texas Tech. This was an improvement. He had eight points, shared the ball well and grabbed some rebounds. Though he also had one of the worst turnovers you’ll ever see, lobbing a pass so far out of bounds it was impossible to tell who it was intended for.
Last game: 6.5. Average: 7.4.
Will Spradling – 5: Iowa State was so concerned with Spradling after he scored 15 point at Hilton Coliseum that the Cyclones made stopping him their top defensive priority. So it’s understandable that he only scored three points.
Last game: 7. Average: 6.4.
D.J. Johnson – 4: The freshman once again saw action against the Cyclones. He didn’t score, but did have some nice moments.
Last game: N/A. Average: N/A.
Nino Williams – 4: Didn’t have much of an impact, but he didn’t make any major mistakes in limited action, either.
Last game: N/A. Average: N/A.
Jordan Henriquez – 1: He fumbled two passes that would have led to easy baskets, misfired wide left on a long jumper and was quickly benched in favor of Gipson and Johnson. Henriquez is in a slump, and this scoreless effort might have been his worst game.
Last game: 2. Average: 5.6