K-State Faces Big Road Test at Nebraska on Wednesday

Sophomore Rodney McGruder posted his first 20-point game on Saturday vs. Oklahoma.

Feb. 22, 2011

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Kansas State (18-9, 6-6 Big 12)
at Nebraska (18-8, 6-6 Big 12)

Date: Wednesday, February 23, 2011  |  Tipoff: 8 p.m. CT
Location: Lincoln, Neb.  |  Arena: Devaney Sports Center (13,595)  |  Live Stats: www.huskers.com  |  Internet: ESPN Full Court/ESPN3.com
Television: ESPNU (Dan McLaughlin, play-by-play; Kara Lawson, analyst; Lya Vallat, producer)
Radio: K-State Sports Network (Wyatt Thompson, play-by-play; Stan Weber, analyst)  |  Satellite Radio: XM 231 (home team only)  
Head Coaches: Kansas State - Frank Martin (Florida International ‘93) is 90-41 (.687) in his fourth season as a head coach and at the school.  Nebraska - Doc Sadler (Arkansas ‘82) is 136-84 (.618) in his seventh season as a head coach and 88-66 (.571) in fifth season at the school.
Series: K-State leads 125-93 (37-55 on the road)  |  Martin vs. Nebraska: 5-2 (1-2 on the road)  |   Martin vs. Sadler: 5-2 (1-2 on the road)   
Last Time Out:  K-State posted a 77-62 win over Oklahoma, while Nebraska tallied a 70-67 win over No. 2/2 Texas, both at home on Saturday. 
Rankings: Neither team is ranked in The Associated Press and/or USA Today/ESPN Coaches’ Top 25 polls.    
Tickets: Limited number available for $10 and $15 in the Nebraska Athletic Ticket Office at (402) 472.3111 or online at www.huskers.com.    

‘Cats face huge road test at surging Nebraska on Wednesday
Kansas State (18-9, 6-6 Big 12) hits the road for a pivotal match-up against a red-hot Nebraska (18-8, 6-6 Big 12) squad on Wednesday night at the Devaney Sports Center at 8 p.m. CT.  Both teams are coming off monumental wins over No. 1 Kansas and No. 2 Texas in the past week with the Wildcats winning four of their last five games and the Huskers three in a row.  The two are tied, along with Baylor, for fifth place in the Big 12 standings with identical 6-6 records, just two games behind third-place Texas A&M (21-5, 8-4 Big 12) and one game behind fourth-place Missouri (21-6, 7-5 Big 12) with four league games remaining in the regular season.  Only the top-4 seeds receive a bye at the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship set for the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., on March 9-12 with K-State earning the distinction each of the last three seasons.  The contest will be broadcast nationally on ESPNU with Dan McLaughlin (play-by-play) and Kara Lawson (analyst) on the call.  It will also be available nationally on ESPN Full Court as well as on the internet at ESPN3.com.  Fans can listen to the “Voice of the Wildcats” Wyatt Thompson and analyst Stan Weber throughout the 33-station K-State Sports Network as well as free of charge online at www.k-statesports.com.

Wednesday’s contest also begins a difficult stretch for Kansas State to wrap up the regular season, as the squad faces fourth-place Missouri at home on Saturday before a trip to league-leading and No. 5/5 Texas (24-4, 11-1 Big 12) on Monday night at the Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.  The squad concludes the regular season with a home game against Iowa State (14-13, 1-11 Big 12) on Saturday, March 5.  The squad has won 12 of their last 13 games in February, which included a 10-game winning streak between the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons.  
 
The game will also mark the 219th and final meeting between the K-State and Nebraska as conference foes, which spans five different league affiliations - Missouri Valley, Big Six, Big Seven, Big Eight and Big 12 Conferences - and dates all the way back to 1906.  The Wildcats lead the all-time series, 125-93, including a 69-53 win in Manhattan just a few weeks back on Feb. 2.  The squad has won four consecutive in the series, including a season sweep of the Huskers a season ago for the first time since 2003-04.  The four-game winning streak is the longest since the team won six in a row from 1987-89.  Nebraska owns a 55-37 mark in games played in Lincoln, including four wins in the last six meetings.  The Wildcats were stellar defensively in the first meeting at home on Feb. 2, holding the Huskers to an opponent season-low for points (53) on 44.2 percent shooting.  They converted 22 turnovers into 21 points to earn its 18th win at Bramlage Coliseum in the series.  Seniors Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly combined 34 of the team’s 69 points, while sophomore Rodney McGruder added 10 points.         

K-State followed up their impressive 83-68 win over top-ranked Kansas on Feb. 14 with another stellar effort against Oklahoma on Saturday.  The Wildcats used three runs of 9-0 or bigger to earn their fourth win in the last five meetings with the Sooners.  The pivotal run came with 5:51 remaining the second half, clinging to a 55-50 advantage.  Oklahoma sophomore Carl Blair was called for a technical after a missed 3-point field goal, igniting a 14-0 run, which included 10 points (two free throws, two 3-pointers and lay-up) from senior Jacob Pullen, to put the game out of reach at 69-50 with 4:20 remaining.  The Sooners would get no closer than 14 points the rest of the way, as the Wildcats salted the game away with a season-best 90.5 percent clip from the free throw line.  The percentage was the highest of the Frank Martin era and the highest since hitting all eight attempts against Texas Tech on Feb. 15, 2006.  Overall, the squad moved to 14-0 this season when scoring 70 or more points, compared to just 4-9 when failing to achieve the mark.  The Wildcats connected on 45.3 percent from the field, including 48.4 percent in the first half, including a 52.6 percent effort from 3-point range.  The team is 10-0 when shooting 40 percent or better from beyond the arc.

The Wildcats were led offensively by the backcourt tandem of Pullen and McGruder, who combined for 47 points on 50 percent (14-of-28) shooting from the field, including a 61.5 percent clip (8-of-13) from 3-point range.  It marked the third time this season that two players had 20 or more points in a contest and the first time since junior Jamar Samuels (22) and Pullen (21) earned the distinction against Texas Tech on Jan. 15.  Pullen followed up his 38-point effort in the win over the Jayhawks with 27 points against the Sooners on 8-of-18 shooting to go with an 8-of-8 performance from the free throw line.  He also added a season-best five steals to give him 200 for his career and making him the first player in school history to post at least 1,800 career points, 400 assists, 300 rebounds and 200 steals in a career.  He also broke his tie with Steve Henson (127, 1987-90) with his school-record 128th appearance.  McGruder added 20 points on 6-of-10 field goals, including a 5-of-7 mark from 3-point range, against the Sooners in a career-tying 36 minutes.  It marked his third 20-point game of his career and the first in Big 12 play.  His effort topped his previous Big 12-high of 19 points in the Big 12 opener at Oklahoma State on Jan. 8, while his five treys were the most for him since he had a career-high seven against UMKC on Dec. 23.  Senior Curtis Kelly and freshman Will Sprading each chipped in nine points, while freshman Shane Southwell posted team-highs in both rebounds (six) and assists (five) to go with two points and two steals.

For his performance last week, Pullen was named the U.S. Basketball Writers Association Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week, as he averaged 32.5 points on 48.6 percent shooting (17-of-35), including 66.7 percent (8-of-12) from 3-point range, to go wtih 4.0 assists, 3.5 steals and 2.5 rebounds in 37 minutes per game.  He also connected on 85.2 percent (23-of-27) from the free throw line.  He was also named the Phillips 66 Big 12 Player of the Week for the third time in his career and for the second time in three weeks.  He cemented his place in school history with a career-best night against Kansas.  The 38 points were the most scored in a win over a top-ranked team in the 14-year history of the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Top 25 and the most any match-up with No. 1 since Elvin Hayes had 39 against UCLA in the Astrodome in 1968.  It was the 12th-most points ever scored by any player against any Jayhawk team and tied for the second-most by a Wildcat player.  Mike Wroblewski scored 46 in 1962, while Dick Knostman had 38 in 1952.  He went 9-of-17 from the field, including a season-best 5-of-6 from beyond the arc, with a career-best 15-of-19 effort from the free throw line.  He also dished out a game-high five assists to go with two steals and one block in 37 minutes of action.  He has now scored in double figures 98 times in his career, just two short of the school record owned by Rolando Blackman (100, 1977-81), while it was his 37 career 20-point games trailing just Bob Boozer (45, 1956-59) and Mike Evans (40, 1974-78).  He has led the team in scoring 20 times in 24 games played this season, including 10 of the last 12 contests.  

Pullen currently ranks 12th among NCAA Division I active players and second among Big 12 players (LaceDarius Dunn) in career scoring with 1,966 points.  He needs 34 points to become the sixth player in Big 12 history to eclipse 2,000 career points and the second Wildcat (Mike Evans).  He is now within 150 points of the school’s all-time scoring leader Mike Evans, who scored 2,115 points from 1974-78.
 
The Book on Nebraska
Nebraska enters Wednesday’s game with an 18-8 overall record and a 6-6 mark in Big 12 action after posting a 70-67 win over No. 2/2 Texas on Saturday in Lincoln.  The Cornhuskers, who have already surpassed both their overall win total (15) as well as in Big 12 play (three), have won three consecutive games in league play.  The team rallied from a 33-26 halftime deficit to stun the league-leading Longhorns, who had won 11 straight league games heading into the contest.  The squad connected 47.1 percent from the field, including 55.6 percent from 3-point range, and posted a 39-34 advantage on the glass.  The stellar Husker defense, held Texas to just 36.4 percent shooting, including 30.8 percent in the second half, while forcing them into 12 turnovers.  Four players posted double figures led by junior Brandon Richardson, who scored 15 points.  Junior Toney McCray and sophomore Jorge Brian Diaz posted 14 and 11 points, respectively, while reserve Andre Almeida added 10 points.  The team returns 10 lettermen, including four starters, from a squad that posted a 15-18 overall record, including a 2-14 mark in the Big 12. 

The Cornhuskers are averaging 67.6 points on 47.2 percent shooting from the field, including 31 percent from 3-point range, with 35.5 rebounds, 13.1 assists, 6.7 steals and 3.5 blocks per game.  They are impressive on the defensive end, yielding 59.2 points on 38 percent shooting, including 31.8 percent from 3-point range, while forcing 13.6 turnovers per game.  They rank first in scoring defense, second in field goal percentage defense and defensive rebounds (27.7) and third in 3-point field goal percentage.  One of the Big 12’s most balanced offensive teams, the Huskers have 10 players averaging at least four points per outing, including two in double figures.  Senior Lance Jeter paces the squad in four categories, including points (10.8 ppg.), assists (4.5 apg.), steals (1.8 spg.) and minutes (29.2).  Diaz averages 10.4 points on 54.8 percent shooting, while junior Caleb Walker averages a team-best 4.7 rebounds.  Six players have totaled double-digit three-point field goals led by McCray’s 25 treys.
    
Nebraska is led by fifth-year coach Doc Sadler, who has compiled an 88-66 (.571) record since taking over in 2005-06.  He has a 136-84 (.618) record in his seventh season as a head coach, which includes a two-year stint at Texas-El Paso (2004-06).  He has guided the Cornhuskers to back-to-back NIT appearances in 2007-09, while his first squad at UTEP advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2004-05. 

Series vs. Nebraska
This will be the 219th meeting between K-State and Nebraska in a series that dates back to 1906.  It is the third-most played series in school history behind the rivalries with Kansas (272) and Missouri (232).  The two teams have met every season for 88 years.  The Wildcats own a 125-93 advantage in the series, including a 37-55 mark in Lincoln.  K-State holds a slight edge in the series since the start of the Big 12, winning 18 of 30 meetings, but just 10 of 14 at Devaney Sports Center in the era.  The squad has won four in a row over the Huskers, including a season sweep a season ago.  The Wildcats earned their first win in Lincoln in three tries with a 76-57 victory at the Devaney Center on Feb. 2 then held on for a 91-87 win at home two weeks later on Feb. 17.  It was the first season sweep for either team since 2003-04.  Denis Clemente led all scorers in Lincoln with 23 points, while Clemente and Dominique Sutton each added 21 points in the four-point win at Bramlage Coliseum.
 
Getting Defensive
Part of K-State’s success in February has been due to its impressive defensive play, as the Wildcats have held their four opponents to 65.2 points on 46.8 percent shooting, including 31.9 percent from 3-point range, while holding a +5.2 rebounding edge.  These foes have averaged just 9.4 assists to 16.2 turnovers with the squad posting an average of 17.4 points off these miscues.  On Feb. 14, the team held the Big 12’s best offense - Kansas - to 68 points (nearly 16 points under their 83.9-point season average) on 44 percent shooting, including 20 percent from 3-point range, to go with 23 rebounds (16 under average), 11 assists (nine under average) and 18 turnovers (five over average).  The Wildcats took advantage of these miscues by scoring at least 20 points off turnovers for the seventh time this season.  This effort came just two days after holding Colorado’s high-powered offense to a season-low 58 points (nearly 20 points under their 80.8-point season average) in a two-points loss.  The squad held the Buffaloes to 44.2 percent shooting, including just 28.6 percent in the first half, while holding one of the Big 12’s best assist-to-turnover teams to just six assists to 16 turnovers (which were converted into 17 points).  It marked the second time in the last three games that the Wildcats have held their opponent to 60 points or less, which also includes a 53-point effort by Nebraska on Feb. 2.  The team has held 35 opponents to 60 points or less under head coach Frank Martin, including nine this season. 

Overall, K-State has been solid defensively all season, holding foes to 65.6 points per game on 42.4 percent shooting, including 34.9 percent from 3-point range, while forcing them into 16.3 turnovers per game.  The squad has held 18 opponents to 65 points or less and have limited 10 foes to under 40 percent shooting.  The Wildcats have also been stellar on the boards, averaging 38.5 rebounds per game, including a Big 12-best 15.3 offensive rebounds, while holding their opponents to 30.9 rebounds per game for an impressive +7.7 rebounding margin (which ranks 10th nationally).  The squad has paced in the league in offensive rebounds in each of Martin’s three seasons.  This rebounding edge has helped them post 383 second-chance points (14.2 per game) compared to just 274 (10.1 per game) for its opponents.  They have out-scored their foes in this regard in all but six games.  The team has scored 20 or more second-chance points in seven games, including a season-high 25 against both UMKC on Dec. 23 and Texas Tech on Jan. 15.  This statistic has been particularly stark in Kansas State’s 18 wins, where the team has averaged 15.2 second-chance points compared to just an average of 12.1 second-chance points in the nine losses.  

Digging the Long Ball
One of the more lethal components of the Wildcats’ offense under Frank Martin has been the ability to convert from long range.  The team has posted 200 or more treys in each of the last three seasons under Martin, including a school-record 253 makes in 2009-10.  This year’s squad is on track to continue that trend, as they rank third in the Big 12 in 3-point percentage (37.6) and fourth in 3-point field goals per game (7.3), while trailing Iowa State (239), Kansas (212) and Missouri (200) in total 3-pointers (196).  The team has tallied double-digit treys in seven games, including a season-best 14 (on 51.9 percent shooting) against Iowa State on Feb. 5.  The 14 makes ties four others for the third-most in a game in school history, while they are most since the squad also tallied 14 against UNLV on Dec. 12, 2009.  Seven different players converted on at least one 3-pointer against the Cyclones, including a season-high four by freshman Will Spradling

Sophomore Rodney McGruder has been particularly solid from beyond the arc, ranking seventh in the Big 12 in 3-point percentage (42.0) and eighth in 3-point field goals per game (2.22).  He has posted at least one trey in 22 of 27 games, including two or more from long range on 18 occasions.  He has been impressive in the last 14 games, where he has connected on 46.8 percent (37-of-79) from 3-point range, including a 7-of-10 effort against UMKC on Dec. 23.  The seven makes tied 10 others for the fourth-most in school history, while he was the first to accomplish the feat since teammate Jacob Pullen did it twice a season ago.  His exploits are all the more impressive considering he shares the backcourt with Pullen, the school’s all-time leader in both 3-pointers (279) and attempts (785).  Pullen, who is seventh in 3-point field goals per game (2.25), ranks second with 54 treys, including at least two in 15 games and a season-high five vs. Kansas on Feb. 14.  However, this statistic goes beyond the pair, as 10 others have at least one trey, including double-digit totals from Spradling (30), Martavious Irving (17) and Nick Russell (12). 

Practice Makes Perfect
One of the main concerns with this Kansas State team has been its ability to shoot free throws, where it 308th nationally (out of 346 teams) and last in the Big 12 at 63.2 percent (419-of-663).  However, the extra practice since the end of the semester has seemed to improve that percentage, as the Wildcats have connected on 72.8 percent (244-of-335) in the last 14 games, including 73 percent (203-of-278) in Big 12-only games.  During this span, the team has hit on more than 75 percent seven times, including games against Oklahoma (90.5; 19-of-21), Nebraska (84.0; 21-of-25), Kansas (82.8; 24-of-29), Texas Tech (81.3; 13-of-16), Baylor (80.6; 25-of-31), Oklahoma State (77.4, 24-of-31) and North Florida (76.9, 20-of-26).  The 90.5 percent shooting against the Sooners was the highest under Frank Martin and the highest since the team went a perfect 8-of-8 against Texas Tech on Feb. 15, 2006.  Junior Jamar Samuels, who ranks sixth in school history in free throws attempted (488), has hit on 77 percent (37-of-48) in Big 12 play, which ranks 12th in the league, after starting the season at 58.8 percent (37-of-63).  Senior Jacob Pullen, who ranks second in school history in both makes (477) and attempts (624), had a career night from the line against Kansas on Feb. 14.  His 15 makes tie for the seventh-most in a game (and fourth-most in a league game), while his 19 attempts rank fourth all-time in a contest. 

Young ‘Cats Step Up
Even before the suspension of seniors Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly before the UNLV game on Dec. 21, the play of Kansas State’s freshmen and sophomores have played a major role in the team’s record.  This nucleus has scored 966 of the team’s 1981 points thus far (49 percent), while posting 517 of 1040 rebounds (50 percent), 209 of 384 assists (54 percent) and 77 of 171 steals (45 percent).  The group boasts six of the Top 10 scorers, while it includes three of the Top 5 rebounders and four of the Top 5 assists leaders.  Thirty-nine of the team’s 85 double-figure scoring efforts have come from sophomores and freshmen led by guard Rodney McGruder, who is second on the squad in double-figure scoring games with 18.  He paces the team in 3-point field goals (60) and rebounding (6.2 rpg.), while he is second in scoring (11.3 ppg.), field goals (105) and minutes (30.0 mpg.).  Freshman Will Spradling and sophomores Martavious Irving and Nick Russell rank in spots fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively, in scoring at 6.3, 4.7 and 4.5 points per game.  Spradling is first in free throw percentage (87.2) and second in assists (2.0 apg.) and steals (0.8 spg.), while he and fellow freshman Shane Southwell are the second and third rookie guards to earn a start under Frank Martin.  This group was even more impressive during Pullen’s three-game suspension (UNLV, UMKC and North Florida games), as the Wildcats averaged nearly 80 points per game (79.7 ppg.), including the school’s first 100-point game of the season, while connecting on 46 percent from the field and 50 percent from 3-point range.  During this period, the Wildcats started three sophomores, a true freshman and a junior with three of the four double-digit scorers being either sophomores or freshmen led by McGruder’s 14.7 points per game.

Bench Points
One of the definite advantage of this year’s Kansas State squad is its depth and versatility.  The Wildcats have played at least nine players in each of its 27 games, including a high of 14 against No. 18/22 Gonzaga (11/22), Texas Southern (11/26), Emporia State (11/29) and Alcorn State (12/6).  The team has used this depth to its advantage, averaging 23.8 points per game off the bench, while out-scoring its foes by a margin of 643-439.  The squad has scored 20 or more points from the bench in 18 of 27 games, including three contests with 40 or more points of bench production.  The Wildcats received a season-best 46 points from their bench vs. Duke on Nov. 23, while they posted 44 against Iowa State on Feb. 5 and 41 against Texas Southern on Nov. 26.  The 46 points versus the Blue Devils was the most from the bench since scoring 59 against Chicago State on Jan. 5, 2009, while the 44 against the Cyclones was the most in a Big 12 game under head coach Frank Martin.  The team has seen a Big 12-high 12 different players record 85 double-digit scoring efforts this season, including 23 coming off the bench from seven separate players.  Sophomore Martavious Irving leads with six double-digit scoring efforts from the bench.
           
Points Off Turnovers
A trademark of Frank Martin-coached teams are their ability to score points off of opponent’s mistakes.  Since he became coach, the Wildcats have scored 2,445 points off of 2,179 turnovers in 131 games, an average of 18.7 points per game.  Nearly 25 percent of the points scored in the past four years have come off of offense generated from turnovers, including the current season, in which, the team has outscored its foes, 469-411.  The squad has scored 20 or more points off of turnovers in eight games, including three times in the last five games where they are averaging 17.4 points off of miscues.  The team has pressured their foes into 15 or more turnovers in 18 games, including a season-high 26 vs. James Madison on Nov. 12, while just four opponents have posted a positive assist-to-turnover ratio.  Before the North Florida game on New Year’s Eve, the Wildcats were one of just four schools to force each of their foes into more turnovers than assists in every game.   
 
Pullen Moving Up the Charts
Senior Jacob Pullen is nearing several career milestones in his final season.  With his team-high 21-point effort against No. 6 Kansas on Jan. 29, he moved into second place all-time in scoring in school history with 1,850 points, passing both Rolando Blackman (1,844, 1977-81) and Askia Jones (1,834, 1989-94).  He ranks 12th among NCAA Division I active players in career scoring (including second in the Big 12 to Baylor’s LaceDarius Dunn) with 1,966 points in a school-record 128 games, which is less than 150 points behind leader Mike Evans (2,115 points, 1974-78).  He is 34 points from becoming the sixth player in Big 12 history to eclipse the 2,000-point barrier, joining Texas Tech’s Andre Emmett (2,256, 2001-04) and Jarrius Jackson (2,221, 2003-07), Baylor’s LaceDarius Dunn (2,217, 2007-present), Kansas’ Nick Collison (2,097, 1999-2003) and Colorado’s Richard Roby (2,001, 2004-08).  He would also become the 12th active Division I player to accomplish the feat.    

Pullen ranks among the Top 5 in 17 career categories in K-State history, including the school records for games played (128), 3-point field goals (279), 3-point field goals attempted (785) and steals (203).  With his five-steal effort against Oklahoma on Saturday, he became the first Wildcat with at least 1,800 points, 400 assists, 300 rebounds and 200 steals, while in the process, snapping his tie with Steve Henson (127, 1987-90) for the most games played.  He is also nearing several other milestones, as he ranks second in double-digit scoring games (98), field goals attempted (1,493), free throws made (477) and attempted (624) and minutes played (3,742), while he is third in 20-point games (37), fourth in starts (109) and fifth in field goals made (605).  Only Rolando Blackman (100, 1977-81) has posted more double-digit scoring games in school history, while only Bob Boozer (45, 1956-59) and Mike Evans (40, 1974-78) have more career 20-point games.      

Pullen Named Preseason AP All-American
Senior guard Jacob Pullen became the first Wildcat to earn preseason All-American honors from the Associated Press, as he was named first team selection by the organization in early November.  Pullen, who has been selected to a number of All-American teams, was joined on the first team by North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes, BYU’s Jimmer Fredette, Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson and Duke’s Kyle Singler.  He was an honorable mention AP All-American as a junior after leading K-State to its first Elite Eight since 1988.  He was already been named a preseason All-American by a number of media outlets, including to the first team by ESPN.com, Blue Ribbon Yearbook and The Sporting News, the second team by Dick Vitale and the third team by Athlon Sports.  In addition, Pullen was selected a preseason Top 50 candidate for both the Wooden Award and Naismith Trophy, while he was also named one of 20 finalists for the Bob Cousy Award and the midseason Top 30 list for the Wooden Award.
 
McGruder Takes Off
Sophomore Rodney McGruder has been one of the team’s most consistent all-around players this season, averaging 11.3 points on 45 percent shooting, including 42 percent from 3-point range, to go with a team-best 6.2 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 0.7 steals in 30.0 minutes per game.  The only player to start all 27 games, McGruder also paces the team in 3-point field goals (60), while he is second in scoring, double-digit scoring games (18), field goals (105) and minutes played.  He had a career day against UMKC on Dec. 23, setting highs in five categories, including points (24), field goals (eight), field goals attempted (14), 3-point field goals (seven) and 3-point field goals attempted.  His seven treys tied 10 others players for the fourth-most in a single-game in school history, while he was the first to do it since Jacob Pullen had seven against BYU in the NCAA Tournament.  Despite the presence of the school’s all-time leader in Pullen, McGruder has been the team’s best long range threat with at least two makes from 3-point range in 18 of his 27 games.  He came through with a Big 12-high five treys against Oklahoma on Saturday to post his third 20-point game and his first in league play.  All of 6-foot-4, he has also been the best rebounder, posting at least five boards in 20 contests, including a career-high 15 against Texas Tech on Jan. 15.  He has led the team in department on 13 occasions.  His 15 rebounds against the Red Raiders were the most by a Wildcat since Michael Beasley grabbed 17 against Missouri on Feb. 16, 2008.   

From Reserve to Starter
A reserve for much of his career, junior Jamar Samuels has made the most of his 14 consecutive starts, which has included all 12 Big 12 games.  The reigning Big 12 Sixth Man Award winner, he is averaging 9.9 points in the span on 44.1 percent shooting (45-of-102), including 33 percent (7-of-21) from beyond the arc, to go with 4.7 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 26.9 minutes per game. Pressed into the starting lineup against North Florida due to an illness, Samuels earned his first start since the first game of his sophomore season with perhaps his best offensive day.  He collected his second career 20-point game, as he came up just one short of his career-high of 27 against Oklahoma State last season at the Big 12 Championships on March 11, 2010.  He went 11-of-15 from the field against Ospreys, including 2-of-3 effort from 3-point range, to go with five assists in 23 minutes.  He has scored in double figures in three of the last six games, including a team-high 13 points at Colorado on 4-of-7 field goals on Feb. 12 to go with a team-best seven rebounds in 21 minutes.  Samuels is closing in on a feat that only eight other players have accomplished at K-State, as he is nearing 1,000 career points (921 currently) and 500 career rebounds (482).      

Coaching Staff Continuity
One of the main reasons that Kansas State has been able to win a school-record 72 games over the past three seasons has been its ability to not only keep head coach Frank Martin, who earned a new multi-year contract through the 2014-15 season during the off-season, but his entire staff, which includes associate head coach Dalonte Hill, assistants Matt Figger and Brad Underwood, director of operations Andy Assaley and strength coach Scott Greenawalt.  K-State is one of just two Big 12 schools (other being Missouri) to have kept their entire staff together for the last four seasons.  This has enabled the Wildcats to post 72 wins the past three seasons, which is the most by a coaching staff in their first three seasons and the most-ever by the school in that span.  They are the first staff to post three consecutive 20-win seasons since 1979-82 and just the second group to guide K-State to the postseason in each of their first three seasons.  The staff has also captured 30 Big 12 wins in last three years, which ties Jack Hartman’s staff from 1970-73 for the most in a three-year period.  They have also helped make the K-State one of just two in the Big 12 to finish in the top-4 in the league standings and receive a bye at the Big 12 Championship each of the past three years.

Season Tickets Sold Out
With preseason expectations for K-State at a near all-time high, officials announced on Oct. 22 that all reserved tickets for the 2010-11 season have been sold.  K-State has sold over 12,000 season tickets to the general public and students, surpassing last year’s total by over 750 tickets.  The school has ranked among the nation’s leaders in attendance in three of the last four years, including ranking 31st with an average of 11,884 fans per game to 17 home games in 2009-10.  The team also ranked fourth in attendance among Big 12 institutions and was second only to Kansas in sellouts with 14.  In addition, the school enjoyed the nation’s largest average attendance increase with nearly 3,000 more fans per game.  Three of the top-5 single-season attendance averages have come in the last four years.