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Wildcats ready to go

By ARNE GREEN

Special to The Hays Daily News

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The Kansas State Wildcats have had enough of watch parties.

After huddling in front of television screens for two of them in a four-day period, it's finally full speed ahead.

Three days after gathering for the NCAA Tournament selection show, the Wildcats (27-7) got together again Wednesday night to learn that they'll face La Salle (28-7) in today's 2:10 p.m. second-round game at Sprint Center.

La Salle claimed the final spot in the traditional 64-team bracket with an 80-71 first-round, play-in victory over Boise State in Dayton, Ohio.

"Coach made sure we (watched together)," K-State center Jordan Henriquez said Thursday, the first day the Wildcats practiced against a specific opponent. "We were going to watch the game whether we got together or not (because) that's just the type of players we are.

"The coaches did a really good job of preparing us for both teams, what kind of sets they run and everything like that - just be prepared for everything."

At least the Wildcats, seeded fourth in the West Regional, had some down time before their one full La Salle-specific practice. The 13th-seeded Explorers left straight from Dayton for Kansas City, arrived early Thursday morning and then turned their attention to K-State.

"It's all great, all whirlwind, but we have to be completely focused on Kansas State," La Salle coach John Giannini.

The Explorers stayed off their feet as much as possible Thursday.

"If we take it easy today, we won't be tired," Giannini said. "If we go out and run around and dunk the ball for 40 minutes after getting in at 4:30 in the morning, having a killer game, going hard for three days in a row, yeah, we'll be tired.

"But we won't because we'll save our energy here."

The La Salle players certainly weren't feeling sorry for themselves, or complaining of fatigue.

"At this point in time you don't have time to be tired or sore," said senior guard Ramon Galloway, who leads the Explorers with 17.1 points and 3.8 assists per game. "You can't have any negative energy.

"It's all positive from the players and the coaches."

K-State's preparation since Selection Sunday was mostly conceptual, though they did spend some time on both La Salle and Boise State before heading to Kansas City.

"Because we didn't know who our opponent was the first two days, we could do a little bit of concepts for each one," K-State coach Bruce Weber said. "Each day I told the (assistant) coaches to find two or three things that they do all the time and we kind of rotated.

"We said. 'OK, Boise, OK La Salle, go back to Boise,' and we kind of rotated."

Fortunately, Weber said, neither team presented a particularly unorthodox style.

"They both are very much dribble-drive, they both are very guard-oriented, so that's been our focus," he said. "We watched the game (Wednesday) night and now you're hooked into La Salle.

"We met as a staff last night for two-three hours last night after the game, got up this morning, we did our video clips with the players, walk-through, all that. Now we'll be back to our regular daily routine."

Watching the play-in game on TV in real time Wednesday night did give the Wildcats a jump on Thursday's film session.

"We just tried to see the little things that La Salle likes to do - their sets - and just see the guys that you're going to be guarding, their tendencies and things like that," said senior guard Rodney McGruder, who leads the Wildcats with 15.7 points and 5.4 rebounds a game. "That's what I got from watching that game, just learning some of those guys' tendencies."

La Salle, one of five teams from the Atlantic 10 in the tournament, lost its last two games before beating Boise, falling 78-54 at Saint Louis in the regular-season finale and 69-58 to Butler in the conference tournament.

The Explorers start four guards and feature a balanced scoring attack with four players scoring in double figures. Junior Tyreek Duren averages 14.6 points, junior Tyrone Garland 13.3 off the bench.

With 6-foot-11 center Steve Zack (6.4 points, 6.4 rebounds a game) sidelined by a sprained foot, 6-8, 240-pound sophomore Jerrell Wright is La Salle's lone inside presence, averaging 10.4 points and a team-best 6.8 rebounds.

For K-State, point guard Angel Rodriguez averages 11.7 points and 5.3 assists and forward Shane Southwell 8.1 points.