K-State Returns Home to Face No. 6/7 Missouri Saturday

Junior Rodney McGruder is averaging 19 points in the last 3 games.

Jan. 6, 2012

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23/22 KANSAS STATE (11-2, 0-1 Big 12) vs. 7/6 MISSOURI (14-0, 1-0 Big 12)
Saturday, January 7, 2012 * 12:30 p.m. CST * Manhattan, Kan. * Bramlage Coliseum (12,528)

Television: Big 12 Network (ESPN Full Court)
Dave Armstrong (play-by-play); Jon Sundvold (analyst)
Channels: KMCI (Kansas City), KSAS (Wichita), KTMJ (Topeka)
Internet: www.ESPN3.com
Radio: K-State Sports Network
Wyatt Thompson (play-by-play); Stan Weber (analyst)
Satellite Radio: Sirius 113/XM 192
Live Stats:  www.k-statesports.com/multimedia
Live Audio: www.k-statesports.com/allaccess (free)
Twitter Updates: twitter.com/kstate_gameday
NCAA RPI: K-State #27, Missouri #41
K-State vs. Missouri: 117-116 (W, 80-70; 2/26/11)
In Manhattan: 62-43 (W, 80-70; 2/26/11)

No. 23/22 Kansas State (11-2, 0-1 Big 12) opens the Big 12 portion of its home schedule on Saturday afternoon, as the Wildcats host unbeaten and No. 7/6 Missouri (14-0, 1-0 Big 12) for the final time as conference foes at Bramlage Coliseum.  The schools' conference affiliation spans nearly 100 years and five conferences (Missouri Valley, Big Six, Big Seven, Big Eight and Big 12) and 233 games.  The game will be broadcast on the Big 12 Network (as well as ESPN Full Court and ESPN3.com) at 12:30 p.m. CST with Dave Armstrong and Jon Sundvold on the call.  One of just four unbeatens (Baylor, Murray State and Syracuse) remaining in Division I, the Tigers are off to their best start since starting the 1981-82 season at 19-0.  K-State will be looking to rebound from a 67-49 loss at No. 14/15 Kansas on Wednesday, which snapped the team's season-best six-game winning streak.  The Wildcats enter the game with 13 consecutive wins at its home venues (includes Sprint Center game with Alabama on Dec. 17) dating back to last season, including 13 straight at Bramlage Coliseum.  The 13-game streak is the second-longest in the arena's history and one short of the record of 14 set from Feb. 17, 2009 to Jan. 18, 2010.  Of note, the two teams will meet as ranked foes for the first time since the top-ranked Tigers posted a 59-58 win over the 14th-ranked Wildcats at Ahearn Fieldhouse on Jan. 30, 1982.

In an effort to ensure that every seat in Bramlage Coliseum is filled for Saturday's Big 12 home opener, K-State Athletics would like to remind season ticket holders of several options.  With the football team playing in the Cotton Bowl on Friday, 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 promotions@kstatesports.com 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.  

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 1,499-1,058 (.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 two wins ahead of Iowa (1,497) and three in front of Tennessee (1,496) entering Saturday's schedule. 

No. 7/6 Missouri enters Saturday's game with a 14-0 record after opening Big 12 play with a resounding 87-49 win over Oklahoma on Tuesday at home.  Under first-year coach Frank Haith, the Tigers are averaging 86.2 points on 52.2 percent shooting (422-of-809), including 41.7 percent (120-of-288) from 3-point range, to go with 35.1 rebounds, 16.9 assists, 9.6 steals and 3.4 blocks per game.  They are holding opponents to just 60.9 points on 40.4 percent shooting and have held eight teams to less than 60 points.  The 25.3-point scoring margin leads the country.  Four players are averaging in double figures led by All-American candidate Marcus Denmon, who paces the team with 18.8 points per game and a team-high 43 3-pointers.  Senior Kim English is averaging 15.9 points on 54.1 percent shooting and 42 treys, while Ricardo Ratliffe is averaging 14.1 points on 76.7 percent shooting and a team-high 7.3 rebounds per game.  Sophomore Phil Pressey is averaging Big 12-bests in assists (6.1 apg.) and steals (2.1 spg.).

Saturday's game will be the 234th meeting between K-State and Missouri dating back to Feb. 7, 1907 with the Wildcats holding a slight 117-116 edge in the series.  K-State is 62-43 (.590) all-time at home in series with seven consecutive wins dating back to 2005.  The seven-game winning streak at home is the longest against the Tigers since winning 10 in a row at Ahearn Field House between 1966 and 1975.  Head coach Frank Martin is 4-4 (.500) against Missouri, including 4-0 at home.

K-State saw its modest six-game winning streak come to a grinding halt on Wednesday night, as Kansas won for the 17th time in the last 18 meeting at Allen Fieldhouse by a score of 67-49.  The Jayhawks jumped out to a 23-5 lead just 10 minutes into the game before the Wildcats made a furious comeback to cut the deficit to single digits, including 39-36 with 12:30 remaining.  A few minutes later, Kansas responded with a 9-0 run to push the lead back to double figures, which it would maintain the rest of the way.  K-State set season-lows in 10 categories, including points, field goals (18), field goal percentage (31.6) and rebounds (26).  The 26 rebounds ties for the fewest by a Frank Martin-coached team (151 games) and fewest since collecting 26 against Kentucky on Nov. 28, 2008, while the 24-rebound deficit was the greatest in his short career.  Junior Rodney McGruder led two players in double figures with 15 points to go with five rebounds and three steals and senior Jamar Samuels added 12 points. 

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 is 56-41 (.577) all-time in conference home openers dating back to Missouri Valley Conference play in 1914.   The Wildcats are 5-10 (.333) in Big 12 home openers, including a 2-2 (.500) mark under head coach Frank Martin.  This will mark the ninth time that K-State will host Missouri in a home conference opener since 1957 with the Wildcats holding a 5-3 (.625) mark in those games.  However, the Tigers have won the last two such meetings, 78-73 on Jan. 6, 1999 and 81-66 on Jan. 12, 2002.

K-State has proved to be a balanced team across the board with seven players averaging six or more points, including three in double figures, and four averaging five or more rebounds per game.  Just 1.4 points separates the team's leading scorer (Rodney McGruder - 12.7 ppg.) with the No. 3 scorer (Will Spradling - 11.3 ppg.), while just 1.8 rebounds separates Jamar Samuels' team-high 7.0 per game average with McGruder's No. 4 average of 5.2 boards.  The team has seen nine different players collect 44 double-digit scoring games with Samuels posting a team-best 10 in 11 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 leading five times), while eight players have led or tied in assists.  Eight players have collected double-figure assists, including 20+ by Will Spradling (37), Shane Southwell (32), Angel Rodriguez (29) and Martavious Irving (22), and five players have double-figure steals (led by McGruder's 18).  In addition, K-State players have tallied seven double-doubles already on the season with Gipson and Samuels each tallying three.

K-State has taken advantage of its opportunities from the free throw line this season with nearly 25 percent of their points (233) coming from the line.  The Wildcats rank fourth nationally in free throw attempts per game (27.8), trailing New Mexico State (36, North Carolina (28.1) and Long Island (28.0), while they tied for 18th in the country in free throws made per game (17.9).  The squad is first in the Big 12 with two more attempts than second-place Iowa State (25.8), while they are second in makes behind Texas' 18.2 per game average.  Opponents are averaging 24.6 personal fouls per game, while they have 68 fewer free throws attempted and 44 fewer free throws made.  Prior to Wednesday's game at Kansas, where the Wildcats posted season-lows for both makes (8) and attempts, the team had 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.  K-State has also converted on at least 20 free throws in five games, including a season-best 24 against Southern Illinois. 

The team is 77-10 (.885) under Frank Martin, including 10-0 this season, when they attempt more free throws, while they are just 29-34 (.460) under Martin, including 1-2 this season, when they equal or are surpassed by their opponent in attempts. 

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 2,761 points off of 2,481 turnovers in 151 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, 225-186.  The squad is pressuring its foes into an average of 16.9 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 success this season has been the play of its defense, which is allowing its opponents just 62.1 points on 37.4 percent shooting, including 28.3 percent from 3-point range, to go with 40.5 rebounds, 6.5 steals and 5.4 blocks per game.  The Wildcats have held eight foes to under 65 points, including five under 60 points.  During the team's six-game winning streak, they held all six opponents to 70 points or less, including four to 60 points or less. 

Heading to Saturday'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 and offensive rebounds, third in blocked shots, fourth in field goal percentage defense and fifth in scoring defense.  Under 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 - 15th, Rodney McGruder - 19th).

Adding to the K-State's balanced attack is the production it is getting from its bench, where the Wildcats are averaging 22.6 points this season, including 31.2 points during its six-game winning streak.  In 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 a key contributor off the bench, 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 33.2 points in the paint and 18.4 points off of second-chance opportunities.  The Wildcats are averaging 40.5 rebounds per game, including 15 on the offensive end, and have out-rebounded their opponent nine times in 13 games, including six times in the last seven.  The team has collected 40 or more rebounds in seven games, including a season-best 50 against George Washington and North Florida.  K-State ranks 12th nationally in rebounds per game (40.5), including second in the Big 12, while it ranks 15th nationally in offensive rebounds (15) and second in the league.  The team is also 25th nationally (and sixth in the Big 12) in rebounding margin.

The Wildcats have posted at least 30 points in the paint in 11 of 13 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 particularly 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 (70-42) as their opponents this season, averaging nearly 5.4 blocks per game.  The Wildcats have posted at least six blocked shots in six of 13 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 32 blocked shots on the year, which is 10 shy of the entire opponent total, and represents nearly 46 percent of the team's total.  His 32 blocks are more than his freshman total (26) and more than halfway to his sophomore (43) total.  Henriquez has recorded at least two blocks in 11 of 13 games this season and the Wildcats are now 24-5 (.828) when he registers at least two blocks in a game in his career.

K-State capped its non-conference schedule on New Year's Eve 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 most valuable player (Phillips 66 Big 12 Player of the Week two days later) 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.

K-State capped its non-conference schedule with an 82-46 victory over Howard on Dec. 31, 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 recent streak of six straight wins.  His longest streak of 10 games came during the 2009-10 season.  The Wildcats have also won 14 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' 11-2 start to season, leading the team in rebounding (7.0 rpg.) and ranking second 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 10 of 11 contests (including seven 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 seven 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 (55) and free throws attempted (78), while he is third in minutes (25.8).  

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 seven games, he has scored 44 of his 83 points from the charity stripe, while connecting on 77.2 percent (44-of-57) 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 1,089 points ranks 15th in school history (six more than Dick Knostman) and is just five shy of passing Clemente (1,093; 2008-10) for 14th place and 23 to pass Willie Murrell (1,112; 1962-64) for 13th.  He can crack the Top 10 with 215 points.  Samuels also ranks in the Top 5 all-time in school history in both career free throws (349) and free throws attempted (579).  His 349 makes tie Knostman for fourth on the all-time list, while his 579 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 13 shy of 10th-place Rolando Blackman (607; 1977-81), and is three games away from the career games played Top 10 with 114 games.  He already ranks ninth in career blocks (79) and 10th in steals (91).  In addition, his 350 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 19.0 points in the last three games on nearly 63 percent shooting (20-of-32), including 58.3 percent (7-of-12) 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 before a team-high 15 points against Kansas on Wednesday.  It was his ninth double-digit scoring game.  McGruder ranks in the Top 20 in both scoring (12.7 ppg; 14th) and rebounding (5.2 rpg; 19th), while he is ninth in steals (1.4 spg.).  He paces the Wildcats in five categories, including scoring, field goals (62), attempts (139), steals (18) and minutes played (30.6 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 three Wildcats in double figures with a team-high 12.7 points per game on 44.6  percent shooting to go with 5.2 rebounds in 30.6 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 11.3 points on 45.5 percent shooting with a team-best 2.8 assists and 2.3 rebounds in 29.6 minutes per game in 13 starts.  He has registered double figures in eight of 13 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 has registered a 1.76 assist-to-turnover ratio (37-21).  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 19 charges taken.  He has posted at least one charge taken in 12 of 13 games this season, including a career-best three each on three occasions.  He nearly has twice as many charges taken (19) as the entire rest of the team combined (12).  For his career, Spradling has taken 40 charges in 47 games, which is five 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 an impact in just his first season as a Wildcat.  A 6-foot-7, 275-pound forward, he ranks second on the team in rebounding (7.0 rpg.) to go with 9.6 points per game in 13 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 on Dec. 8, 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 six games, averaging 4.5 points on 30 percent shooting with 5.2 rebounds per game in 18.7 nminutes per game.  He is also just 9-of-21 from the free throw line with a team-worst 14 turnovers.

Sophomore Shane Southwell has made an impact in a number of areas for the Wildcats in 2011-12, averaging 4.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists in just under 22 minutes per game.  In just his second start this season against Howard on Dec. 31, 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 surpassed Will Spradling for the team's best assist-to-turnover ratio (1.88) through 13 games with six games of one or fewer turnovers.  He 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 six 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 the team's six-game winning streak, he averaged 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 past six 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, including just 14.3 percent 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.

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. 

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. 4/5 BAYLOR (14-0, 1-0 Big 12)
K-State plays host to No. 4/5 Baylor (14-0, 1-0 Big 12) on Tuesday at 7 p.m. on FOX Sports Kansas City.