KSU hangs on to beat UMKC
By ARNE GREEN
Special to The Hays Daily News
MANHATTAN – The danger of a Florida hangover was real enough.
Throw in a series of health and travel mishaps and the Kansas State Wildcats were living on the edge.
The No. 25-ranked Wildcats, coming off a signature victory over Florida seven days earlier, displayed none of the same spark
Saturday night against UMKC but still hung on for a 52-44 victory against the Kangaroos at Bramlage Coliseum.
"Since the Florida game, probably everything that could go wrong probably went wrong," K-State coach Bruce Weber said after bad weather delayed several players' return from Christmas break and injuries took guards Angel Rodriguez and Martavious Irving out of the lineup. "It's still a good win.
"You would think turning them over 19 times and getting 19 offensive rebounds that the score would be a bigger margin, but sometimes you've got to win in different ways and we won with defense tonight."
The Wildcats shot just 32.1 percent from the field and 51.6 percent from the foul line but held UMKC in check at the other end and never trailed in the game. The Kangaroos shot 33.3 percent and missed all five of its 3-point attempts in the second half.
K-State had just one full practice Thursday and a walk-through Friday to get ready for the 'Roos. Rodriguez has tendonitis in his foot and Irving's knee locked up in practice on Friday.
"It's not an excuse," said guard Rodney McGruder, who was stranded in Chicago trying to get back to Manhattan. "Coach always talks about situations like that where guys can't play, we we've prepared for situations like this.
"We could have played better."
McGruder led the Wildcats with 17 points and Thomas Gipson had 13 points and six rebounds in just 24 minutes. Thomas Staton came off the bench to score 13 points for UMKC.
The combined 96 points tied for the fewest in a K-State game during the Big 12 era, equaling a 50-46 victory at Iowa State in 2009.
The Wildcats won 67-61 last week against a Florida team that led the nation in defense.
"We have to guard," Weber said. "We're good at it, and I think we showed last week that if we play at the right level we can be OK offensively – enough to win."
The Wildcats also hit the boards in the second half as the offense went south. After UMKC outrebounded them 21-16 in the first half, they bounced back with a 24-15 advantage after the break for a final 40-36 margin.
"They're one of the best rebounding teams in the country and their physicality wore us down at the end," UMKC coach Matt Brown said. "I am proud of my team and disappointed.
"We had a chance to beat a top 25 team at their place."
The 'Roos got 16 rebounds from Fred Chatmon, who also scored nine points.
UMKC, which trailed 25-21 at the half, had a chance to pull within a point with 8:20 to play, down 37-34, when center Brad Reid drove the lane and dunked. But the basket was waved off when Nino Williams stepped in and drew a charging call. The Kangaroos got no closer than three the rest of the way.
"I was just help side and I saw him rolling to the basket and that was my help (assignment) so I just stepped over," said Williams, who finished with eight points and a team-high 13 rebounds.
After Chatmon's rebound basket cut K-State's lead to 39-36 with 4:10 left, the Wildcats took control with six straight points to go up nine on McGruder's basket in the lane at the 2:18 mark.
K-State shot just 31 percent from the field in the first half and lost the rebounding battle, but led by four thanks to 14 turnovers.
The Wildcats shot well early, grabbing a 20-9 lead on Omari Lawrence's two free throws with 10:57 left in the first half. But they missed their next eight field goal attempts and 14 of 16 to close out the half as UMKC finished the period with a 12-5 run.
K-State has one more non-conference tuneup Monday with a 1 p.m. home game against South Dakota before opening Big 12 play with Oklahoma State on Jan. 5 at Bramlage.