Postgame: Michigan 71, K-State 57

In its first loss of the season, Kansas State made 36.7 percent of its shots from the field, 22.2 percent of its shots from three-point range and scored more than half of its points on fast break and second chance opportunities.

The Wildcats clearly struggled with Bruce Weber’s motion offense, and that’s the main reason they were unable to push No. 4 Michigan in the second half of a 71-57 defeat.

“We need to spend more time on offense, because a lot of us aren’t on the same page with knowing how to set screens and keep the offense moving,” starting forward Nino Williams said.

That showed when it took nearly 10 minutes for K-State to get its first points out of a half-court set. Seniors Rodney McGruder and Jordan Henriquez were quiet until the game got out of reach and guards Will Spradling and Angel Rodriguez were the only two players that were consistently active.

But while they held the ball or sprinted around the perimeter to get open, K-State’s interior players seemed lost. They rarely caught the ball in good position to turn and shoot, and when they tried to pass back outside Michigan made them work.

The Wolverines didn’t allow the Wildcats to make many easy passes, and that was perhaps what hurt K-State the most. When forwards have to jump or lob passes to get the ball to guards on the perimeter, everything slows down.
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A few minutes with … Chester Frazier

Chester Frazier just joined the Kansas State basketball program as an assistant coach, but he feels like he has been working with the Wildcats for several months.

That’s not surprising considering he did a big favor for Bruce Weber days before he was hired as head coach.

Weber was considering taking the job, but wanted to make sure Rodney McGruder was returning for his senior season before he did. McGruder grew up in Washington DC, and Frazier (a former point guard for Weber at Illinois) grew up in nearby Baltimore. So Weber called Frazier, who was playing professional basketball in Germany at the time, to ask if he could get McGruder on the phone and find out if he was committed to K-State after the departure of Frank Martin. All while not saying anything about Weber’s interest in becoming the next coach.

Not the easiest of tasks, considering Weber’s request came at 3 in the morning (German time) and Frazier had never met McGruder. But Frazier delivered.

“My phone rang and it was Coach Weber,” Frazier said. “He said, ‘Chester, you have to call Rodney.’ All right what’s going on? ‘Well, I might get the Kansas State job and I need you to see what’s going on. He’s their best player.’”

Frazier took a moment to wake up and then called a friend associated with DC Assault, McGruder’s former AAU basketball team. He obtained McGruder’s cell phone number and had him on the phone about 30 minutes later.

McGruder was more than happy to talk.

“It wasn’t really weird,” McGruder said. “One of my good friends is friends with Chester. He said Chester was going to give me a call. I had seen him play before when he was at Illinois. I was cool with it. I was sitting on my couch watching TV. He was just asking me about my situation. I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll stick around. I love K-State.’”

The rest, as they say, is history. Weber became K-State’s head coach a few days later, and he was so impressed by Frazier’s connections (and overall basketball knowledge) that he figured he would be a good recruiter that he offered him a position on his staff.

Frazier moved to Manhattan earlier this week and is excited to get started. He was also nice enough to share a few of his thoughts on his new gig.

What attracted you to this job?

Being an assistant at this level was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. You know, when I was in Germany playing Coach and I kind of talked about it. But as time went on we got more serious about it.
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Frank Martin challenges Jamar Samuels

Of Kansas State’s seven returning scholarship basketball players, it’s pretty easy to identify who will make up the core of next year’s team.

Rodney McGruder will likely be the best player on the roster. Will Spradling is eager to enter the starting lineup after a promising freshman season. And Jamar Samuels will be a fifth-year senior.

Yes, Shane Southwell and Jordan Henriquez ended last season on upswings, and walk-on Victor Ojeleye could very well be named a captain, but those are the three who (for now, anyway) figure to make the biggest impact for the Wildcats next season — both on and off the court.

I asked K-State coach Frank Martin about all three earlier this week, and it turns out he has a pretty good idea of who his most dependable players will be next season, too.

But instead of a trio, he sees a duo.

He is most confident in McGruder and Spradling.

“Those are the two guys that have shown the willingness to be consistent with who they are, with their approach, with their work ethic,” Martin said. Read More »

Postgame: Texas A&M 64, K-State 56

On the day Curtis Kelly finally came through with a big game for Kansas State, Rodney McGruder disappeared.

That wasn’t the only reason why the Wildcats fell to Texas A&M 64-56 on Saturday at Reed Arena, but it certainly was a factor.

Kelly looked like the senior forward everyone was hyping in the preseason. He scored 15 points on eight shots, snared 11 rebounds and blocked six shots. He was a true force inside. Had he been eligible and played like that a few more times this season, K-State may not be in its current predicament.

Add his day on to 21 points from Jacob Pullen and a decent afternoon from McGruder, who has been the Wildcats’ most consistent player all year, and K-State is likely feeling good about a win today. But the sophomore guard was not himself.
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Postgame: UNLV 63, K-State 59


Kansas State was unable to defeat UNLV without its best two players in the lineup Tuesday at the Sprint Center.

The loss came in front of a raucous sellout crowd, and the shorthanded Wildcats played the Rebels tough before falling 63-59. But it was a painful night for K-State all the same.

“We’re not about losing here,” said an angry Frank Martin. “We’re not about playing hard and coming up close and moral victories. That’s not what we built our program about. We lost, so it wasn’t good enough.”

Martavious Irving and Jamar Samuels later said they also found few positives in the loss. Samuels made a good point about the Wildcats being strong enough to beat Virginia Tech earlier this season with Kelly out of the lineup and Pullen only playing 14 minutes. He thought they should have done the same here.

K-State is certainly a team that should know how to play with members of its roster unavailable. Of the Wildcats’ 16 players, only six (Rodney McGruder, Victor Ojeleye, Nick Russell, Freddy Asprilla, Jordan Henriquez-Roberts and Will Spradling) have seen action in every game this season.

The other 10 have missed anywhere from one game to nine for various reasons. Here is a rundown:
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Postgame: K-State 63, Wazzu 58

Will Spradling has been impressive all season, but he took his game to a new level Friday night at Friel Court by showing his clutch side late in a 63-58 victory over Washington State.

In front of a deafening student section, the freshman guard made two free throws with 16 seconds remaining to increase a narrow two-point lead to a more comfortable four. Free throws have troubled Kansas State all year, but Spradling stepped into a difficult situation and made the necessary shots under pressure to help his team win its first true road game.

A window into how Spradling kept his cool:

Leading by two points with 23 seconds remaining, K-State inbounded the ball to its best player, Jacob Pullen. Washington State had no interest in fouling the senior guard and trapped him with a double team. Spradling was supposed to be nearby to receive an outlet pass, but was out of position and the Wildcats called timeout. In the ensuing huddle, Frank Martin challenged Spradling.

“I told him, ‘You don’t want the ball at the end of the game? What’s the problem?’” Martin said. “He said, ‘Are you kidding me? Yes I want it.’ So I said, ‘Go get the ball.’”

He did. K-State ran the same play when it returned to the court with success and got the ball to Spradling. The Cougars saw a freshman with the ball and couldn’t foul him fast enough. With 16 seconds remaining, Washington State had the man it wanted at the foul line. But so did K-State.

“I knew he was making them,” Pullen said. Read More »

Postgame: K-State 81, Gonzaga 64

How big is today’s CBE Classic championship game between fourth-ranked Kansas State and top-ranked Duke?

So big that there is virtually no way to over hype it.

The Wildcats are striving for a marquee victory that will prove themselves capable of handling high expectations. The Blue Devils and coach Mike Krzyzewski are, well, Duke: the defending national champion everyone loves to hate. Except Frank Martin, that is.

“I look at two things,” Martin said. “No. 1, it’s hard to be good for one year. They’ve been good for 28 years. They’ve competed for national championships and conference championships for 28 years. That’s ridiculous.

The other part of it, which shows the kind of man that leads that program, and the people that he demands to have in that program, USA Basketball had become the laughing stock of the world. All of a sudden he engages in USA basketball and now USA basketball is back to dominating the world.

“It’s going to be a privilege to tell my grand kids one day that I was able and fortunate enough to sit on the bench opposite Coach K, and try to prepare a team to compete against his.”
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Postgame: K-State 73, Va. Tech 57

Anyone who wanted to know what Kansas State looked like without Jacob Pullen or Curtis Kelly got their wish yesterday.

Turns out the Wildcats can hold their own without their two most heralded players.

With Pullen in foul trouble and on the bench for all but two minutes of the first half, and Kelly serving an ongoing suspension, K-State used an assortment of different players against the 22nd-ranked Virginia Tech Hokies. They all did their part. The Wildcats found a way to take a one-point halftime lead and pull away for a 73-57 victory once Pullen returned to the game.

Here’s a look at who contributed most under the unusual circumstances:
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Live Blog: K-State vs. North Texas

Aside from a few shaky moments at the beginning, No. 2 seed Kansas State easily defeated No. 15 seed North Texas 82-62 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday at the Ford Center.

With the victory, the Wildcats advanced to the field of 32, where they will take on No. 7 seed BYU on Saturday.

Against the Mean Green, K-State was led by Denis Clemente, who scored 17 points. Curtis Kelly and Jacob Pullen each added 15, while Dominique Sutton chipped in 12.
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Postgame: Kansas 82, K-State 65

Outside of Denis Clemente and Jacob Pullen — the only K-State players who brought their offensive ‘A’ games to Allen Fieldhouse on Wednesday — Wally Judge and Rodney McGruder were the Wildcats’ top performers against Kansas.

Neither freshman has been seen in the K-State lineup much lately, and their play against the Jayhawks was a bit of a surprise.

Judge saw more action on Wednesday than he had in his previous five games combined, but came through with six points and four rebounds. Rodney McGruder saw more minutes than he had in his previous four games combined, and looked good scoring five points and snaring a team-high six boards. Both played 21 minutes.

It was good to see the two freshmen playing well, but K-State needed better contributions out of its starters in order to beat the Jayhawks.
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