Big Run Helps K-State Past UTEP, 78-70

Freshman Angel Rodriguez has scored in double figures in three straight games, including 16 vs. UTEP on Friday.

Dec. 23, 2011

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HONOLULU, Hawaii - A 3-pointer by freshman Angel Rodriguez ignited a 14-1 run in the second half, as K-State rallied past Texas-El Paso, 78-70, on Friday and into the finals of the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic Championship game at the Stan Sheriff Center.

K-State (9-1) will play either Long Beach State (6-5) or Auburn (8-1) at 8:30 p.m. CST on ESPN2 on Christmas Day.  The 49ers and Tigers play later on ESPN2 in the second semifinal game of the day.

Rodriguez paced the Wildcats in scoring for the second consecutive day with a game-high 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting, including a 2-of-3 clip from 3-point range.  He also added four assists in a career-best 29 minutes.  He led the squad with 17 points against Southern Illinois on Thursday.

Two other Wildcats - Will Spradling (11) and Jamar Samuels (10) - scored in double figures, while 10 players registered at least two points in the game.  The bench came through with another big effort, as K-State posted a 42-13 edge in bench scoring, including 16 from Rodriguez and eight points each from Adrian Diaz, Jordan Henriquez and Jeremy Jones.

Samuels collected his eighth career double-double (and third this season) despite shooting just 1-of-8 from the field.  He went 8-of-11 from the free throw line and now has connected on 27-of-34 attempts in the last three games.  The senior, who arrived on Wednesday after spending much of the week back home in Washington, D.C. due to his grandmother's funeral, added a game-high 12 rebounds to his 10 points.  The Wildcats are now 8-0 all-time when Samuels earns a double-double. 

K-State opened the game with yet another strong first half, holding a 45-32 edge at the break.  The team took the lead for good in the first half with a pair of Spradling free throws at the 9:31 mark and extended it to 13 on an Adrian Diaz dunk right before halftime.  The Wildcats ended the half on a 28-14 run.   

In the second half, UTEP slowly chipped away at the 13-point halftime deficit.  John Bohannon's jumper at the 10:07 mark broke a 57-all tie and gave the Miners their first lead since 18-17 at the 10:51 mark of the first half.  The basket capped a 27-12 run. 

Rodriguez came through in the clutch with his 3-pointer at the 9:29 mark, which started a 14-1 run by K-State over a five-minute span.  After UTEP tied it on a free throw at 60-all, Rodney McGruder gave the squad the lead for good with a lay-up then Martavious Irving added another big 3-pointer from the top of the key.  Diaz had a jumper and two free throws and Henriquez had a dunk to give the Wildcats a 71-60 lead with 4:29 remaining.  

Spradling helped to keep the Miners at a safe distance with a 3-pointer to push the lead to 74-62 with 2:40 remaining and then added a lay-up with 31 seconds left to keep it in double figures.  Only a late 3-pointer and three free throws by Jacques Streeter put the game back in single digits.

The Wildcats connected on 45.8 percent (27-of-59) of its field goals, including 50 percent (6-of-12) from 3-point range, while holding a 39-21 edge in rebounding.  The squad also took advantage of 12 UTEP turnovers by scoring 18 points, while they scored 18 points off of 18 offensive rebounds.

UTEP (5-6) saw five players score in double figures led by Streeter's 15 points, while Julian Washburn and Cedrick Lang added 13 and 12 points, respectively.  The Miners connected on 46.5 percent (20-of-43) from the field, including 41.7 percent (5-of-12) from 3-point range.  They took advantage of their opportunities at the free throw line, connecting on 73.5 percent (25-of-34).  The 25 makes and 34 attempts were both season-highs for an opponent.

On a four-game winning streak, K-State will be playing for a regular-season tournament title for the second straight season on Sunday after losing to Duke in the finals of the O'Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic at the Sprint Center last season.  The last tournament title came in 2006 at the Las Vegas Holiday Classic.