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Wildcats cruise to win

By ARNE GREEN

Special to The Hays Daily News

MANHATTAN -- An NIT Season Tip-Off interlude did nothing to slow Kansas State's momentum.

The Wildcats, who are headed to New York this week for the second half of their four-game NIT experience, took care of business in workmanlike fashion Sunday afternoon with a dominating 74-55 victory against North Florida at Bramlage Coliseum.

"I think it's a game that, looking at the setup -- going to New York next week, Thanksgiving break -- it's kind of what you anticipate," K-State coach Bruce Weber said after watching the Wildcats build a 30-point second-half lead before stumbling down the stretch. "You're just not quite as sharp.

"Coaches use the phrases, 'focused, cut in,' and you could have used them all today."

Despite the uneven effort, the Wildcats improved to 4-0 behind a season-best 16 points from Rodney McGruder, 12 points and nine rebounds off the bench from Thomas Gipson and 10 points by Nino Williams. Adrian Diaz added nine points and a career-high 10 rebounds.

"You're just not at that magic level," Weber added. "Obviously you won and you're happy you won, but at the same time you want to play and make improvement.

The Wildcats, after claiming their NIT regional with a pair of home-court victories last week, head to Madison Square Garden on Wednesday to play Delaware in the 6 p.m. semifinal. They'll play either Pittsburgh or Michigan on Friday for first or third place.

The Wildcats got off to another fast start against North Florida, opening a 16-6 advantage on D.J. Johnson's two free throws with 13:23 left in the first half. They led 40-26 at the break and stretched it to 30 before a 12-1 run by the Ospreys (1-3) to finish the game.

"I'm just disappointed we weren't able to compete better on the glass," said North Florida coach Matthew Driscoll, whose Ospreys returned much the same team that took K-State to overtime last year before falling, 79-68. "A lot of things in life you can't simulate.

"We can't simulate their size and the pressure they put on the ball."

The Wildcats used their size and strength inside to outrebound North Florida, 54-31, and pressured the Ospreys into 20 turnovers.

K-State shot just 37.9 percent from the field but had 29 offensive rebounds and took 11 more shots than the Ospreys, plus outscored them 21-9 from the free-throw line.

McGruder had five points during a 9-2 run over the first three minutes of the second half to push the lead to 21.

"I thought the starting group in the second half got us going," Weber said.