No. 22 K-State Travels To No. 15 KU in Big 12 Opener

Sophomore Will Spradling has a team-best 23 3-point field goals this season.

Jan. 4, 2012

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23/22 KANSAS STATE (11-1) AT 14/15 KANSAS (10-3)
Sunflower Showdown presented by Dillons 
Wednesday, January 4, 2011 *  7 p.m. CST * Lawrence, Kan. * Allen Fieldhouse (16,300)

Television: Big 12 Network (ESPN Full Court)
Dave Armstrong (play-by-play); Reid Gettys (analyst)
Channels: KMCI (Kansas City), KSAS (Wichita), KSNT (Topeka)
Radio: K-State Sports Network
Wyatt Thompson (play-by-play); Stan Weber (analyst)
Satellite Radio: Sirius 92 (home broadcast only)
Live Stats:
Live Audio: (free)
Twitter Updates:
NCAA RPI: K-State #27, Kansas #52
K-State vs. Kansas: 91-180 (W, 84-68; 2/14/11)
In Lawrence: 35-81 (Last win, 59-55; 1/14/2006)

No. 23/22 Kansas State (11-1) tips off a grueling 18-game Big 12 Conference slate on Wednesday, as the Wildcats play archrival No. 14/15 Kansas (10-3) at Allen Fieldhouse in the Sunflower Showdown presented by Dillon's Supermarkets.  The game will be broadcast on the Big 12 Network (as well as ESPN Full Court and with Dave Armstrong and Reid Gettys on the call.  The winners of a season-best six in a row, including the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic, K-State has won three straight on the road (Nebraska, Texas and Virginia Tech) dating back to last season.  However, the squad has just one win in the last 17 meetings at Allen Fieldhouse, including five straight losses dating back to 2007.  Of note, Wednesday's game will mark just the 15th time that the longtime rivals will meet when both are ranked, including the fifth time in the last 10 meetings.  

K-State is closing in on a milestone as a program, as the Wildcats are just one victory shy of 1,500.  The school currently stands at 1,499-1,057 (.586) in 108 seasons, which ranks 41st all-time in NCAA Division I history.  The school could become the sixth current Big 12 program to eclipse the milestone, following Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Missouri.  The Wildcats could become the fifth team to top 1,500 wins this season, joining St. Joseph's, Ohio State, Michigan State and Washington State.  The school is currently three wins ahead of both Iowa and Tennessee, which have 1,496 wins entering Wednesday night. 

K-State is 49-49 (.500) all-time in conference openers dating back to Missouri Valley Conference play in 1914, including a 16-31 (.340) mark when starting on the road.   The Wildcats are 5-10 (.333) in Big 12 openers, including a 2-8 (.200) mark on the road.  This will mark the 11th time that the two schools have met in a league lid-lifter since 1916 with Kansas holding a 7-3 mark in those contests.  Head coach Frank Martin is 1-3 (.250) in Big 12 openers with the last win coming at Oklahoma on Jan. 12, 2008.
No. 14/15 Kansas enters Wednesday's game with a 10-3 record after running its winning streak to three games with a 84-58 win over North Dakota on New Year's Eve.  Two of the team's three losses have come to current Top 5 teams Kentucky and Duke, while they have wins over Top 10 foes Ohio State and Georgetown.  They have won 13 straight at Allen Fieldhouse, including a perfect 7-0 mark at home this season.  Under ninth-year coach Bill Self, the Jayhawks are averaging 76 points on 48.1 percent shooting (347-of-722), including 35.5 percent (82-of-231) from 3-point range, to go with 38.5 rebounds, 16.1 assists, 7.5 steals and 5.4 blocks per game.  They are holding opponents to 59.8 points on 37.4 percent shooting, including 34.6 percent from 3-point range, and have held seven teams to less than 60 points.  Three players are averaging in double figures led by Player of the Year candidate Thomas Robinson, who paces the team in both scoring (17.7 ppg.) and rebounding (12.2 pg.).     

Wednesday's game will be the 272nd meeting between K-State and Kansas dating back to Feb. 11, 1907 with the Jayhawks holding a 180-91 mark.  Kansas is 81-35 (.698) all-time at home in series with wins in 14 of the last 15 meetings.  The Wildcats have lost five in a row at Allen Fieldhouse with the last win coming in a 59-55 victory on Jan. 14, 2006.  Frank Martin is 2-7 (.222) against Kansas, including 0-4 at Allen Fieldhouse.  Martin is the first coach with more than one win in the series since Dana Altman.

K-State, like the rest of its Big 12 brethren, will face a daunting 18-game league schedule where a true conference champion will be crowned after each team is played home-and-home.  The Big 12 is the only Bowl Championship Series (BCS) league to have such a format.   The start of this league slate will be a gauntlet for the Wildcats, in which, they will play three consecutive ranked foes (No. 14/15 Kansas, No. 7/6 Missouri and No. 4/5 Baylor) to start Big 12 play for the first time in school history.  It is  the first time since the 1996-97 season (No. 1 Kansas and No. 22 Texas) that K-State will open conference play with consecutive ranked league foes.  Overall, it is the first time since the 2002-03 season (No. 6 Oklahoma, No. 11 Oklahoma State and No. 12 Kansas) that the Wildcats will play a stretch of three consecutive ranked opponents. 

K-State capped its non-conference schedule on Saturday with a 82-46 win over Howard.  The Wildcats have posted a 58-12 (.829) record in non-conference play under head coach Frank Martin, including five straight seasons of at least 10 wins.  The 58 wins are the most over a five-year span in non-conference play.  Overall, the team has collected 10 or more wins in non-conference play in six consecutive seasons dating back to 2006-07.  The squad played just 12 non-conference games in 2011-12 due to the expanded 18-game Big 12 Conference slate.  It is the fewest non-conference games in a single-season since playing 11 during the 2005-06 season.  K-State is one of seven Big 12 teams to have reached double-digit wins, while the 11-1 mark trails just the unbeaten marks of Baylor (14-0) and Missouri (13-0). 

K-State earned its first regular-season tournament title since 2006, as the Wildcats captured the 2011 Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic with wins over Southern Illinois (83-58), UTEP (78-70) and Long Beach State (77-60).  It was the first tournament title since winning the 2006 Las Vegas Holiday Classic and the first under head coach Frank Martin.  The squad averaged nearly 80 points (79.3 ppg.) during the three-game tournament on 49.7 percent shooting (78-of-157), including 51.3 percent (20-of-39) from 3-point range, while holding its opponents to just 62.7 points on 36.6 percent shooting (59-of-161).  Junior Rodney McGruder was named the tournament MVP after averaging 15.0 points on 64 percent shooting, including a career-best 28 points in the final against LBSU.  Senior Jamar Samuels was also named to the all-tournament team after averaging 11.7 points and a team-best 8.3 rebounds per game.  Four players averaged in double figures, while eight averaged more than five points.  It also marked the first time since the 1964 Big Eight Holiday Tournament in Kansas City that the Wildcats won three tournament games.

After playing a bevy of close games to start the season, K-State has rattled off six consecutive wins by an average margin of more than 18 points per game (18.3), including almost 17 points per game (16.6) during the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic.  If you remove the North Florida game which went to overtime, the Wildcats have been even better in the last five games, averaging 78.2 points on 48.9 percent (130-of-266) shooting, including 46.2 percent (36-of-78) from 3-point range, while holding foes to 58.4 points on 36.9 percent (97-of-263) shooting in nearly a 20-point (19.8) per game margin of victory.  K-State has connected on better than 50 percent of its field goals three times in the last four games, including 48 percent or better from 3-point range in three of those contests.  Prior to the current six-game winning streak, the Wildcats won five of its first six games by 12.7 points per game, including three games by eight points or less and four more by no more than 13 points.  If you take out the game the 42-point win over UMES on Nov. 22, the average winning margin is reduced to just 8.3 points during that span.    

K-State has proved to be a balanced team across the board with seven players averaging six or more points, including four in double figures, and four averaging five or more rebounds per game.  Just over 2 points separates the team's leading scorer (Rodney McGruder - 12.5 ppg.) with the No. 4 scorer (Thomas Gipson - 10.4 ppg.), while just 2 rebounds separates Jamar Samuels' team-high 7.2 per game average with McGruder's No. 4 average of 5.2 boards.  The team has seen nine different players collect 42 double-digit scoring games with Samuels posting a team-best nine in 10 games played and three double-digit rebounding games (with Gipson also totaling three).  The Wildcats have had five scoring leaders (with Gipson leading the way five times) and four different leading rebounders (with Samuels and Jordan Henriquez each leading four times), while eight players have led or tied in assists.  Eight players have collected double-figure assists, including 20+ by Will Spradling (32), Shane Southwell (32), Angel Rodriguez (29) and Martavious Irving (22), and four players have double-figure steals (led by McGruder's 15).  In addition, K-State players have tallied seven double-doubles already on the season with Gipson and Samuels each with three.

K-State has taken advantage of its opportunities from the free throw line this season with nearly 25 percent of their points (225) coming from the line.  The Wildcats rank second nationally in free throw attempts per game (28.8), trailing only New Mexico State's 35.4 attempts, while they are 11th in the country in free throws made per game (18.8).  Both numbers are first in the Big 12 with the squad averaging nearly four more attempts than second-place Iowa State (24.9) and nearly one more make than No. 2 Missouri (17.9).  Opponents are averaging 25.1 personal fouls per game, while they have 68 fewer free throws attempted and 48 fewer free throws made.  The Wildcats have attempted at least 23 free throws in every game this season, including a season-best 33 vs. Charleston Southern, Virginia Tech and Alabama.  They have more attempts than every team except West Virginia and UTEP.  The team has also converted on at least 20 free throws in five games, including a season-best 24 against SIU.

A trademark of Frank Martin-coached teams are their ability to score points off of opponent's mistakes.  Since he became head coach in 2007, the Wildcats have scored 2,750 points off of 2,461 turnovers in 150 games - an average of 18.3 points per game.    Nearly 25 percent of the points scored in the past five years have come off of offense generated from turnovers, including the current season, in which the team has outscored its foes, 214-168.  The squad is pressuring its foes into an average of 16.7 turnovers per game, including a season-high 22 by Charleston Southern and 21 against North Florida.  Five times this season the Wildcats have scored 20 or more points off miscues, including 26 vs. UMES, 25 vs. Howard, 23 vs. North Florida and 21 vs. West Virginia.     

One of the key components of K-State's current six-game winning streak has been the play of its defense, which has allowed its opponents 60 points on 37.6 percent shooting, including 29  percent from 3-point range.  The Wildcats have held all six foes to 70 points or less, including four to 60 points or less.  For the season, the team has held eight foes to under 65 points, including five under 60 points.  Overall, K-State is allowing 61.7 points on 36.7 percent shooting, including 27.7 percent from 3-point range, to go with a 41.8 rebounds, 6.1 steals and 5.4 blocks per game.  The squad is forcing opponents into 16.7 turnovers per game. 

Heading to Wednesday's game, K-State ranks among the Top 30 nationally in four defensive categories, including 12th in field goal percentage defense, 22nd in 3-point field goal percentage defense, 25th in rebounding margin and 27th in blocked shots.  The squad also places in the Big 12's Top 5 in six defensive categories, including second in rebounding, 3-point field goal percentage defense, offensive rebounds, third in blocked shots and field goal percentage defense and fourth in scoring defense.  Under head coach Frank Martin, the Wildcats have finished no lower than fourth in rebounding (twice leading the Big 12 in 2007-08 and 2008-09) and have led the league in offensive rebounds each season.  K-State is the only Big 12 school to have four players in the Top 20 in rebounding (Jamar Samuels - 6th, Thomas Gipson - 7th, Jordan Henriquez - 14th, Rodney McGruder - 18th).

Adding to the K-State's balanced attack is the production it is getting from its bench, where the Wildcats are averaging 25.6 points this season, including 31.2 points during the current six-game winning streak.  During wins over Alabama (35), Southern Illinois (48), UTEP (42) and Howard (34), the Wildcats received nearly half of their scoring from the bench (159 of 314 points), including double-figure efforts by Angel Rodriguez (4), Jordan Henriquez (1), Jamar Samuels (1) and Jeremy Jones (1). In fact, Rodriguez collected double figures in each of those four contests from the bench, including a season-best 17 against SIU, averaging a team-best 14.3 points on 53.1 percent shooting from the field.  He was not alone in his production, as the Wildcats got 17 points and eight rebounds from Henriquez against the Crimson Tide, Samuels added 14 points vs. the Salukis and Jones posted his first career double-digit effort (10) against Howard.  Reserves Adrian Diaz has also been key during the stretch, as Diaz collected nine and eight points, respectively, in back-to-back games against SIU and UTEP.  Overall, the 48-point bench effort against SIU was the most of the Frank Martin era, while the 90 combined bench points were the most in consecutive games under Martin.     

Kansas State has taken advantage of its rebounding skills this season, averaging 34.5 points in the paint and 18.6 points off of second-chance opportunities.  The Wildcats are averaging 41.8 rebounds per game, including 15.3 on the offensive end, and have out-rebounded their opponent nine times in the first 12 games, including each of the last six games.  The team has collected 40 or more rebounds in seven games, including a season-best 50 against George Washington and North Florida.  K-State is tied with Lamar for sixth nationally in rebounds per game (41.8), including second in the Big 12, while it ranks 13th nationally in offensive rebounds (15.3) and second in the league.  The team is also 25th nationally (and fourth in the Big 12) in rebounding margin.

The Wildcats have posted at least 30 points in the paint in 11 of 12 games, including a combined 90 in overtime games with West Virginia (44) and North Florida (46).  The squad has also collected 20 or more second-chance points vs. Loyola Chicago, George Washington, Virginia Tech and North Florida.  These numbers were particularily important in the overtime win over North Florida, as K-State posted season-bests in both categories, including a decisive 27-8 edge in second-chance points.

K-State had quite the effective game on the boards against George Washington on Dec. 1, totaling a season-high 50 on the night, including 33 on the defensive end.  Three Wildcats registered double-digit rebounds, including a season-best 13 by freshman Thomas Gipson, a career-best 11 by junior Jordan Henriquez and 10 by senior Jamar Samuels.  Gipson had his first double-double (and first by a Wildcat freshman since Michael Beasley had one against Wisconsin in the 2008 NCAA Tournament) against the Colonials with a team-high 17 points, while Samuels recorded his sixth (of now seven) career double-double with 10 points.  It marked the first time in more than 11 years that three players tallied double-figure rebounds with two having double-doubles. The last time came in an overtime win over Tennessee State on Nov. 28, 2000 when three players - Kelvin Howell (11 points, 14 rebounds), Larry Reid (17 points, 12 rebounds) and Travis Reynolds (14 points and 14 rebounds) - registered double-doubles.

The Wildcats equaled their season-high of 50 rebounds, including a season-best 25 offensive rebounds, against North Florida on Dec. 11 with Gipson again leading the way with a game-high 12 boards.  Five other players totaled at least four rebounds.  Gipson managed his third double-double against the Ospreys, posting his first career 20-point game with 23 on the day.  It marked the first time since the 2009-10 season that the squad has collected at least 50 rebounds in a game twice in a season.

Kansas State has taken advantage of its size in the paint to post nearly twice as many blocked shots (65-33) as their opponents this season, averaging nearly 5.4 blocks per game.  The Wildcats have posted at least six blocked shots in six of 12 contests, including a season-best 11 blocks against North Florida on Dec. 11.  Most of these blocks have come by way of 7-footer Jordan Henriquez, who ranks 31st nationally with 2.5 per game.  Henriquez has tallied 30 blocked shots on the year, which is just one shy of the entire opponent total, and represents nearly 46 percent of the team's total.  His 30 blocks are nearly identical to his freshman total (26) and more than halfway to his sophomore (43) total.  Henriquez has recorded at least two blocks in 10 of 12 games this season and the Wildcats are now 24-4 (.857) when he registers at least two blocks in a game in his career.

K-State played consecutive overtime games on Dec. 4 and 8 for the first time in nearly 50 years, as the Wildcats lost in two overtimes to West Virginia, 85-80, on Dec. 8 at INTRUST Bank Arena in Wichita before coming home to knock off a pesky North Florida squad, 79-68, in single overtime on Dec. 11.  It marked just the second time in school history that the team has played in back-to-back overtime games and the first time since they played in three consecutive from Feb. 3-15, 1964 (all on the road and all wins).  The two-overtime loss to the Mountaineers was just the 13th in school history to go at least two overtimes, while it was the first since the Wildcats knocked off Xavier, 101-96, in two overtimes to advance to the Elite Eight on March 25, 2010.  Overall, the squad is now 66-39 (.629) in overtime games, including 30-11 (.732) at home.  The North Florida game was the first home non-conference regular-season overtime contest since a 69-67 victory over Tennessee State on Nov. 28, 2000. 

K-State capped its non-conference schedule with an 82-46 victory over Howard on Saturday, which extended the school's non-conference winning streak at Bramlage Coliseum to 39 games.  The Wildcats also extended their homecourt winning streak in Manhattan in the month of December to 24 games at the "Octogon of Doom," including a 16-0 mark under Frank Martin.  The last loss non-conference at home came to Rutgers, 76-66, on Dec. 28, 2004.  Overall, K-State is 36-1 (.973) in December at Bramlage Coliseum the past nine years (2002-10).  Martin has posted a stellar 28-6 (.824) record in the month since 2007-08.  Overall, the Wildcats have won 14 consecutive games at home venues, including 13 straight at Bramlage Coliseum.  The current 13-game winning streak is the second-longest in the arena's history to the 14-game streak from Feb. 17, 2009 to Jan. 18, 2010.      

Head coach Frank Martin became the fourth K-State head coach to earn his 100th career victory, including the second-fastest, in the 69-61 win at Virginia Tech on Dec. 4.  He joined Naismith Hall of Fame coaches Jack Gardner (147-81, 1939-42, 1946-53) and Fred "Tex" Winter (261-118, 1954-68) and all-time wins leader Jack Hartman (295-169; 1970-86).  He is the first to do so since Hartman did it midway through the 1975-76 season.  Martin accomplished the feat in just 143 games, which is one shy of the 142 it took Winter to produce his 100th victory midway through the 1958-59 season.  Hartman's 100th win came in 149 games, while Gardner did it in his 170th game in his second stint as head coach in 1950-51.  The 2009-10 Big 12 Coach of the Year, Martin is the first Wildcat coach to post a 20-win season in each of his first four years and joined (current Oklahoma head coach) Lon Kruger as the only head coaches in school history to guide teams to the postseason in his first four seasons.

Of note, Martin has posted a winning streak of at least five games on 10 different occasions in just five short seasons at K-State, including the team's current streak of six consecutive wins.  His longest streak of 10 games came during the 2009-10 season.  The Wildcats have also won 13 straight at home, which is the one of four double-digit home winning streaks under Martin. 

Senior Jamar Samuels has been a key component to the Wildcats' 11-1 start to season, leading the team in rebounding (7.2 rpg.) and ranking third in scoring (11.8 ppg.).  Despite missing the exhibition game and the first two games due to violations of team rules, he responded well so far, collecting double-figure scoring games in nine of 10 contests (including six consecutive games dating back to the North Florida game) and back-to-back double-doubles (vs. George Washington and Virginia Tech) for the first time in his career.  His six consecutive double-figure scoring games is the longest since he had 10 in a row in 2009-10.  He also ranks first on the team in both free throws (53) and free throws attempted (75), while he is third in minutes (29.3).  

Samuels continued his stellar play in Hawai'i , earning Diamond Head Classic All-Tournament team honors after averaging 11.7 points, a team-best 8.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 28.7 minutes per game.  He also took advantage of his opportunities from the free throw line in tournament, scoring 21 of his 35 points from the line on 77.8 percent (21-of-27) shooting.  In the last six games, he has scored 42 of his 71 points from the charity stripe, while connecting on 77.8 percent (42-of-54) from the line.     
Senior Jamar Samuels was named the Phillips 66 Big 12 Player of the Week on Dec. 5 after averaging a double-double in wins over George Washington and Virginia Tech.  Samuels, who earned the weekly honor for the first time in his career, averaged 13.5 points on 64.7 percent shooting (11-of-17), including 50 percent (1-of-2) from 3-point range, in the two wins with 12.0 rebounds in 27.0 minutes per game.  He recorded double-doubles in each contest, marking the first time in his career he has done that in back-to-back games, and raised his career total to seven.  He began the week with a 10-point, 10-rebound effort in the win over George Washington.  Playing in front of numerous friends and family from nearly Washington, D.C., in the Wildcats' first road game, he was sensational in the clutch against Virginia Tech.  He snagged a game-high 17 points on 7-of-8 field goals to go with a career-tying 14 rebounds in 28 minutes.  After struggling in the first half due to foul problems, he registered a double-double in the second half alone with 15 points on 6-of-6 shooting and 13 rebounds against the Hokies.

Senior Jamar Samuels earned his 1,000 career point in the double-overtime loss to West Virginia on Dec. 8, becoming the 23rd player in school history and the third (Jacob Pullen & Denis Clemente) under head coach Frank Martin to eclipse the milestone.  He is current total of 1,077 points ranks 17th in school history (14 more than Lon Kruger) and is just two shy of tying Steve Mitchell (1,079; 1970-73) for 16th place.  He can crack the Top 15 with just six points and pass Dick Knostman (1,083; 1950-53).  Samuels also ranks in the Top 5 all-time in school history in both career free throws made (347) and free throws attempted (576).  His 347 makes rank fifth on the all-time list, while his 576 attempts are third behind only Bob Boozer (702; 1956-59) and Jacob Pullen (684; 2007-11).  He is also close to cracking the career rebounding Top 10, just 18 shy of 10th-place Rolando Blackman (607; 1977-81), and is four games away from the career games played Top 10 with 113 games.  He already ranks ninth in career blocks (77) and 10th in career steals (90).  In addition, his 348 personal fouls are the most in school history.     

After a roller coaster of a year shooting the ball, junior Rodney McGruder is starting to hit his stride in the last few games.  He is averaging 21 points in the last two games on nearly 83 percent shooting (15-of-18), including 86 percent (6-of-7) from 3-point range.  McGruder earned most valuable player honors at Diamond Head Classic on Dec. 25 after torching Long Beach State for a career-best 28 points in the championship game on near perfect 10-of-11 shooting, , including 2-of-3 from 3-point range, to go with a 6-of-7 effort from the free throw line.   He followed that up with a 14-point effort against Howard on Dec. 31 on 5-of-7 field goals, including 4-of-4 from beyond the arc.  It was his eighth double-digit scoring game this season.  McGruder ranks in the Top 20 in both scoring (12.5 ppg; 14th) and rebounding (5.2 rpg; 18th), while he is 15th in steals (1.3 spg.).  He paces the Wildcats in five categories, including scoring, field goals (57), attempts (125), steals (15) and minutes played (29.9 mpg.).

The 28 points surpassed his previous high of 24 against UMKC on Dec. 23, 2010, while it was his seventh career 20-point game and his third this season.  Remarkably, by making 10-of-11 field goals against LBSU, he posted one of the best shooting nights by an individual in school history.  Only Joe Wright (11-of-11 vs. Oklahoma State on Jan. 23, 1985) and Eddie Elder (11-of-11 vs. Colorado on Feb. 23, 1985) had a better field goal percentage in a game when attempting more than 10 shots.    

Junior Rodney McGruder followed up his most valuable player performance at the Diamond Head Classic with his first career Phillips 66 Big 12 Player of the Week award on Dec. 26.  In helping the Wildcats win their first regular-season tournament title since 2006, he averaged 15.0 points on 64 percent shooting, including 44.4 percent from 3-point range, with 6.0 rebounds in 24.3 minutes per game.  He scored in double figures in two of three games, including a career-best 28 points in the championship game against Long Beach State on Christmas Day.  He went a near perfect 10-of-11 from the field against the 49ers, including 2-of-3 from beyond the arc, and 6-of-7 from the free throw line.  He also added six rebounds and a steal in 25 minutes. 

McGruder paces four Wildcats in double figures with a team-high 12.5 points per game on 45.6  percent shooting to go with 5.2 rebounds in 29.9 minutes per game.  He is the third Wildcat to receive a weekly award this season.  Senior Jamar Samuels was named the Big 12 Player of the Week on Dec. 5, while freshman Thomas Gipson was Rookie of the Week on Dec. 12.

Sophomore Will Spradling has solidified the starting point guard spot so far this season, averaging 11.8 points on 46.7 percent shooting with a team-best 2.7 assists and 2.3 rebounds in 29.3 minutes per game in 12 starts.  He has registered double figures in eight of 12 games, including tying his career-high with 17 points against Long Beach State on Dec. 25.  He also scored 16 points against West Virginia to go with a pair of 15-point efforts against Charleston Southern and Loyola Chicago.  Perhaps his greatest improvement so far has been in taking care of the ball, where he leads the team with a 1.88 assist-to-turnover ratio (32-17).  Since the opener where he turned it over three times, he has had two turnover-free games and four others where he had just one miscue.  He has 14 assists to just two turnovers against North Florida and Alabama, including a near double-double against the Ospreys with a career-best nine assists (to just one turnover) to go with 12 points. 
In addition to his ball-handling skills, Will Spradling has continued to demonstrate his toughness on the court, registering a team-best 18 charges taken.  He has posted at least one charge taken in 11 of 12 games this season, including a career-best three each on three occasions.  He nearly has twice as many charges taken (18) as the entire rest of the team combined (11).  For his career, Spradling has taken 39 charges in 46 games, which is two more than second-place Jamar Samuels (35).  He saw his streak of consecutive games with at least one charge taken end against Howard on Dec. 31.     

Freshman Thomas Gipson has made quite the impact just a few games into the 2011-12 campaign.  A 6-foot-7, 275-pound forward, he ranks second on the team in rebounding (7.1 rpg.) to go with 10.4 points per game in 12 starts.  He has scored in double figures in five games, leading the team against Loyola Chicago (19), UMES (13), George Washington (17) and North Florida (23), while collecting a team-high three double-doubles.  He became the first freshman since Michael Beasley in 2007-08 to collect a double-double with 17 points and season-best 13 rebounds against George Washington on Dec. 1.  He followed that up with his second double-double with 15 points in the loss to West Virginia, earning Phillips 66 Big 12 Rookie of the Week honors.  He made it three double-doubles in four games against North Florida with a season-high 23 points and game-high 12 boards.

Gipson has struggled in the last five games, averaging 5.4 points on 33.3 percent shooting with 5.6 rebounds per game in 19.2 minutes per game.  He is also just 9-of-21 from the free throw line with a team-worst 12 turnovers.

Sophomore Shane Southwell has made an impact in a number of areas for the Wildcats in 2011-12, averaging 4.7 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists in just under 23 minutes per game.  In just his second start this season against Howard, he dished out a career-tying six assists for the second time in three games.  He also had six assists (to zero turnovers) against UTEP on Dec. 23.  He has matched Will Spradling's assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.88 through 12 games with five games of one or fewer turnovers.  Southwell has also made an impact on the scoreboard, scoring in double figures twice this season, including a career-best 11 points against Charleston Southern in the opener and Virginia Tech on Dec. 4.   

Although it has taken some time to adjust to the college level, freshman Angel Rodriguez is starting to make an impact from the bench, where both his scoring and minutes have gradually increased in the past few weeks.  He has scored in double figures in four of the last five games, including a season-best 17-point effort on five treys in the win over Southern Illinois on Dec. 22.  He followed that up with 16 points against UTEP on Dec. 23 before adding 11 points against Howard on Dec. 31.  During this span, he is averaging 11.4 points on 44.7 percent shooting, including 52.4 percent from 3-point range, to go with 3.0 assists and 2.2 rebounds in 22.0 minutes per game.  He has played 20 or more minutes in three of these five games after registering 20 or more minutes three times in the first seven games.  His shooting has also drastically improved.  In the first seven games, he was averaging 4.4 points on 20 percent shooting (8-of-40), including just 14.3 percent (3-of-21) from 3-point range.  He has nearly tripled his scoring output, while shooting nearly 25 points higher from the field, including nearly 40 point higher from long range.
Kansas State was selected to finish sixth in the preseason 2011-12 Big 12 Conference coaches' poll released by the league office in early October.  The Wildcats received 39 points to earn sixth place in the new 10-team conference configuration, just 12 points behind fifth-place Texas (51) and six points ahead of seventh-place Oklahoma State (33).  The coaches were deadlocked on the preseason favorite with Kansas and Texas A&M each garnering 73 points, however, the Jayhawks did receive five of 10 first-place votes.  Baylor (63) and Missouri (61) followed the preseason duo in third and fourth-places, respectively, while Texas and K-State rounded out the top 6.  The rest of the poll included OSU, Iowa State (27), Oklahoma (15) and Texas Tech (15). 

The sixth-place prediction is the lowest since K-State was picked eighth prior to the 2008-09 season.  The Wildcats, who tied Texas A&M for third place in the Big 12 in 2010-11, are one of only two teams to finish in the league's top-4 and receive a bye at the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship each of the past five seasons.  With only 10 teams, the top-6 will earn a bye in the 2012 event with the lower four seeds playing on the first day.  Of note, coaches are not allowed to vote for their own teams.

Looking to maintain the program's momentum and consistency, head coach Frank Martin announced coaching staff promotions in early June, including the elevation of Lamont Evans as a full-time assistant.  In addition, he also promoted Brad Underwood to associate head coach and assistant coach Matt Figger to recruiting coordinator.  Evans has played a pivotal role in the development of the program the past three years, beginning as an undergraduate manager in 2008-09 the continuing as a graduate manager from 2009-11.  During this span, he helped K-State post a 74-31 (.705) record, which including three trips to the postseason highlighted by consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances in 2010 and 2011.  A native of Eleuthera, Bahamas, Evans came to the U.S. at the age of 5, eventually settling in Deerfield Beach, Fla.  He played his first two years of college basketball at Seminole (Fla.) Junior College in Sanford, Fla., and St. Catharine College in St. Catharine, Ky., before enrolling as Drake in 1999.  He played two seasons for the Bulldogs, appearing in 42 games from 1999 to 2001.  For his career, he averaged 8.0 points on 41.5 percent shooting with 5.8 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game.  He spent seven years playing professionally, including stops internationally in Slovenia, Germany, Finland, Belgium and Venezuela.  A former Wildcat lettermen, Underwood is in his 24th season as a college coach, including his sixth at K-State.  He received much acclaim last season, as Martin took his suggestion of adjusting the offensive scheme to the "pinch-post" in early January.  Figger is in his 19th season as a coach, including his fifth at K-State and assumes the recruiting coordinator position.

Junior Rodney McGruder and sophomore Will Spradling both competed for all-stars teams in Europe this past summer.  Spradling played for Athletes in Action's tour of Macedonia and Kosovo in Eastern Europe from May 25-30, while McGruder played with the East Coast All-Stars during their trip to the Four Nations Cup in Estonia in early August.  Spradling, playing alongside Big 12 brethren Cory Jefferson and A.J. Walton of Baylor and Jordan Juenemann and Jeff Withey of Kansas helped the AIA squad to a 6-1 record, including the tournament championship against Poland.  He was named the most valuable player and to the All-Tournament team.  He scored 20 or more points twice in the tournament, including a team-high 23 in the team's only loss to Poland (May 24) and a team-best 25 vs.  the Bulgarian U20 National Team (May 27).  He posted 14 vs. Bulgaria Select (May 26), while he had eight points and four assists vs. the Kosovoan National Team (May 31).  McGruder was named to the Four Nations Cup All-Tournament, as the East Coast All-Stars finished third in the event behind Estonia (2-1) and Georgia (2-1) and ahead of fourth-place Sweden (1-2).  He was the only All-Star named to the all-tournament team after averaging 13.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.7 steals in the three-game tournament.  He hit the game-winning shot in the win over Sweden (August 5) before pouring in 22 points and 14 rebounds in the 98-81 loss to Georgia (August 6). 

Senior Victor Ojeleye was recently elected by his peers to serve as Vice-Chair of the Big 12's Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) during the 2011-12 athletics season.  A two-time first team Academic All-Big 12 selection, Ojeleye saw action in 24 games as a junior in 2010-11, averaging 1.8 points on 46.2 percent shooting with 1.6 rebounds in 8.0 minutes per game.  He scored in 10 games, including a season-high 12 points against North Florida on Dec. 31, 2010.  A double major in accounting and finance, Ojeleye earned the inaugural Dr. Gerald Lage Award from the Big 12 in 2010-11, which is given to student-athletes who have earned 100 or more hours of credit with a cumulative 3.8 GPA.  He also has been named to the Fall and Spring Big 12 Commissioner's Honor Rolls each of the past two years, including a perfect 4.0 GPA during the Spring 2011 semester.  
UP NEXT:  VS. 7/6 MISSOURI (13-0)
K-State will return home on Saturday to host No. 7/6 Missouri (13-0) at 12:47 p.m. CST on the Big 12 Network.  It is expected to be the last meeting between the two rivals in Manhattan as the Tigers enter the Southeastern Conference next season.  With the football team playing in the Cotton Bowl on Friday, season ticket holders who plan on attending the bowl game and are unable to attend the basketball game can donate their tickets to Fort Riley soldiers and families and area youth organizations by emailing with their name and ticket location or by calling (800) 221.CATS.  Season ticket holders can also sell their tickets online through Powercat Ticket Exchange via the official site.