Published March 16, 2013
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Rodney McGruder scored Kansas State's first nine points of the second half and led the 11th-ranked Wildcats past No. 14 Oklahoma State 68-57 Friday night in the Big 12 semifinals, setting up a title match on Saturday against rival Kansas.
McGruder, a career leader in 10 of 14 categories for the second-seeded Wildcats (27-6) scored 25 points as the Wildcats avenged a loss to Oklahoma State in the regular season finale that forced them to share the league title with the hated Jayhawks. The 6-4 McGruder had 24 points the night before against Texas.
Angel Rodriguez, Kansas State's 5-11 point guard, acquitted himself well against Marcus Smart, his bigger and more celebrated Oklahoma State counterpart. Rodriguez had 17 points, four assists and three steals. He had two 3-point buckets while the Cowboys (24-8) were threatening a second-half comeback.
The 6-4 Smart, the Big 12 player of the year, had 18 points, three assists and three steals.
Kansas State, which hadn't won a regular-season conference title since 1977, held a 28-23 halftime lead and then McGruder launched the second half with a dunk, a coast-to-coast layup, a jumper and a three-point play that put the Wildcats on top 37-25.
Smart's two free throws began a brief flurry for the Cowboys, who closed to 40-33 on a bucket by Michael Cobbins. But Rodriguez hit a 3-pointer from the wing and, after Smart threw up an air ball, Shane Southwell made a free throw and Thomas Gipson had a dunk for the Wildcats.
The lead reached 49-35 when Rodriguez rebounded an Oklahoma State miss and McGruder drilled a 3-pointer.
The Cowboys shot only 30.5 percent and were just 9 for 31 in the second half. Le'Bryan Nash had 11 points for Oklahoma State.
Jordan Henriquez had eight points and 11 rebounds for Kansas State.
The game was played before 19, 116, a tournament record, and the Sprint Center is sure to be rocking against Saturday when the two archrivals from the Sunflower State collide for the title. The No. 7 Jayhawks swept Kansas State during the regular season and in fact have tormented their state rivals, holding a bulging 184-91 record against them. Bill Self is 7-0 against Kansas State in conference tournament games and 20-3 since becoming Kansas coach. Kansas reached the finals by beating Iowa State 88-73 in the earlier semifinal.
The Wildcats were miserable in the early going, missing 17 of their first 20 shots. But Oklahoma State was not much better. The Cowboys were only four for their first 11 and had four quick fouls and four quick turnovers.
But the Cowboys got a 3-pointer from Phil Forte and two more long ones from Smart, who had 12 points in the first half, and seized a 17-12 lead on Philip Jurick's tip-in.
But then Southwell, who missed his first four from the field, connected from behind the arc and launched a 12-2 run. McGruder's bucket was followed by Martavious Irving's 3-pointer, then Rodriguez picked up an errant Oklahoma State pass and drove on for a layup and a 24-19 lead.