K-State Returns Home to Face North Florida Sunday

Will Spradling has scored in double figures in four of the first six games.

Dec. 10, 2011

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Game 7
Kansas State (5-1) vs. North Florida (5-4)
Sunday, December 11, 2011 * 1:10 p.m. CT * Manhattan, Kan. * Bramlage Coliseum (12,528)

Game Information
Television: FOX Sports Midwest HD (ESPN Full Court)
Ben Boyle (play-by-play); Stan Weber (analyst)
Channels: DirecTV 671, Dish 418, AT&T U-verse 748, TWC 309
HD Channels: DirecTV 671-1, Dish 418-1, AT&T 1748, TWC 1309
Internet: ESPN3.com
Radio: K-State Sports Network
Wyatt Thompson (play-by-play); Matt Walters (analyst)
Satellite Radio: XM 91
Live Stats:  www.k-statesports.com/multimedia
Live Audio: www.k-statesports.com/allaccess (free)
Twitter Updates: twitter.com/kstate_gameday
K-State vs. North Florida: 1-0 (W, 100-76; 12/31/2010)
vs. Atlantic Sun: 6-0 (6-0 at home)

The Game
Kansas State (5-1) will look to rebound after a tough double-overtime 85-80 loss to West Virginia on Thursday, as the Wildcats return home to the friendly confines of Bramlage Coliseum to face North Florida (5-4) at 1 p.m.  The squad enters the contest with a 37-game non-conference winning streak at Bramlage Coliseum.  K-State has also won 22 consecutive games at the “Octogon of Doom” in the month of December, including a 14-0 mark under head coach Frank Martin.  The team is 34-1 (.971) in December at Bramlage Coliseum the past nine seasons with the last loss coming to Rutgers (76-66) on Dec. 28, 2004. 

K-State non-conference single-game tickets can be purchased by calling the Athletics Ticket Office at (800) 221.CATS or by visiting online at www.k-statesports.com/tickets.  These tickets are priced at $30 for chairback and cushion seats and $20 each for bench seating. 

Television Note
Sunday’s game will be the third of six broadcasts that will be available on the entire FOX Sports Midwest footprint, which includes more than 5.9 million cable and satellite homes in six states -- Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois and Indiana.  Other games include Howard on Dec. 31, Oklahoma on Jan. 28 and Iowa State on Jan. 31.  For fans looking to find the game is in your area, a channel finder for FOX Sports Kansas City/Midwest can be found at www.FOXSportsKansasCity.com.

The Opponent
North Florida enters Sunday’s game with a 5-4 record after running its winning streak to four games with an 80-58 victory over Jacksonville in its Atlantic Sun opener on Dec. 3.  The Ospreys have rebounded from a brutal schedule to start the season, in which, they lost road games at Alabama (64-44), Florida (91-55), Miami (75-62) and Ohio State (85-50).  The four-game winning streak has come in home games against Wright State (69-52), Jackson State (69-60), Bethune-Cookman (61-56) and now Jacksonville.  Under former Baylor assistant coach Matthew Driscoll, the squad is averaging 61.3 points on 42.7 percent shooting (192-of-450), including 31.2 percent (43-of-138) from 3-point range, to go with 35.9 rebounds, 10.8 assists, 5.4 steals and 3.1 blocks per game through nine games.  Three players average in double figures led by junior forward Andy Diaz, who paces the team with 10.8 points on 49.3 percent shooting with 5.8 rebounds per game.  Fellow junior guard Parker Smith averages 10.6 points on 43.3 percent shooting, while senior guard Jerron Granberry adds 10.5 points per game and a team-high 18 3-point field goals. 

Last Meeting: K-State 100, North Florida 76 (Dec. 31, 2010)
K-State posted its best offensive performance of the 2010-11 season, topping 100 points on 57.4 percent shooting in 24-point victory over North Florida on Dec. 31, 2010.  Five players scored in double figures led by a career-high 26-point effort by junior Jamar Samuels on 11-of-15 field goals.  Sophomore Wally Judge had a near double-double with 22 points and nine rebounds, while Victor Ojeleye and Will Spradling added 12 and 11 points, respectively.  The Wildcats shot 50 percent or better in both halves, connecting on 60.6 percent in the first and 53.6 percent after halftime.  The Ospreys were also solid from the field, connecting on 49 percent and 57.1 percent in the second half.  Sophomore Parker Smith was on fire from 3-point range for North Florida, scoring a team-high 25 points on 8-of-14 shooting, including 7-of-12 mark from 3-point range. 
Sunday’s game will mark the second consecutive meeting between the two schools on the hardwood following the 100-76 win by the Wildcats last season.  K-State is 6-0 against teams from the Atlantic Sun Conference with all six wins coming at home, including Mercer (89-60) in 1997, Lipscomb in 2002 (88-64) and 2003 (92-57), Belmont (66-62) in 2005 and Kennesaw State (82-54) in 2006.  The average margin of victory in these six meeting with the Atlantic Sun has been 24 points.   

Up Next: vs. Alabama (7-2)
K-State will play host to No. 16 Alabama (7-2) in the Hy-Vee Wildcat Classic on Saturday, Dec. 17 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.  The game will be broadcast nationally at 9 p.m. CT on ESPNU.  Tickets are available through all Ticketmaster outlets, by calling (800) 745.3000 or online at www.Ticketmaster.com.  Fans can also order tickets through the K-State Athletics Tickets Office.

Big Stretch
After playing just two games in a 17-day stretch, the Wildcats are playing their fourth contest in an 11-day span and the first at home in 10 days on Sunday.  The stretch began at home on Dec. 1 with a 69-56 win over A-10 foe George Washington, which ran their non-conference winning streak at Bramlage Coliseum to 37 games.  It continued Sunday, Dec. 4 on the road, as the Wildcats gave head coach Frank Martin his 100th career win with a hard-fought 69-61 win against Virginia Tech.  The squad battled former head coach Bob Huggins and future Big 12 foe West Virginia back-in-forth on Thursday night before the Mountaineers pulled out an 85-80 win in two overtimes.  The team will now have five days off before its next game for final Fall semster exams.   

In December 
K-State has been solid in the second month of the season under head coach Frank Martin, posting a 22-6 (.786) overall record in December since 2007-08, including a stellar 14-0 mark at Bramlage Coliseum.  The Wildcats have also won 22 consecutive games at their home venue in Manhattan in the month with the last loss coming to Rutgers, 76-66, on Dec. 28, 2004.  Overall, the team is 34-1 (.971) in December at Bramlage Coliseum the past nine years (2002-10). 

Brotherly Love
Sunday’s contest will pit brother against brother, as North Florida junior forward Andy Diaz will face off against younger sibling, K-State freshman forward Adrian Diaz.  The older Diaz is the Ospreys’ leading scorer (10.8 ppg.) and rebounder (5.8 rpg.) in starting all nine games, while the younger Diaz has played in four games for the Wildcats, averaging 1.0 points and 1.3 rebounds in 6.3 minutes per game.  He saw significant time in the double-overtime loss to West Virginia on Thursday night, posting two points, three rebounds, an assist and a block in a season-best 13 minutes of action.  The Diaz brothers also have an older brother, Eric Armenteros, who played college basketball at Division II Eckerd (Fla.) College from 2002-05.

Other Ties
Former Kansas State football coach Lee Moon will be in attendance at Sunday’s game, who is in his third year as the director of athletics at North Florida.  Moon served as interim coach of the Wildcats in 1985, taking over for Jim Dickey, midway through the season and guiding the squad to 1-8 record.  He would later serve as an assistant athletics director (1985-86) and associate athletics director (1986-88) at K-State before becoming athletics director at Marshall in 1986.  Moon would hire  Billy Donovan and Dana Altman as head basketball of the Thundering Herd before a stint as athletics director at Wyoming (1996-2003).  His son, Lee, Jr., is North Florida’s director of men’s basketball operations.

Teacher Takes Student 
Former head coach Bob Huggins knocked off former assistant Frank Martin in their first meeting, as West Virginia outlasted K-State, 85-80, in double-overtime on Thursday at the Wichita Wildcat Classic at INTRUST Bank Arena.  The two coaches have a long relationship dating back to Martin’s days at Miami (Fla.) Senior High School, where Huggins would recruit while coaching at Cincinnati.  Huggins helped Martin break into the college ranks at Northeastern in 2000 before hiring him as an assistant coach at Cincinnati in 2004.  Martin was Huggins’ first hire when he came to K-State in 2006, serving as lead assistant during the Wildcats’ 23-win season.  Martin is now 1-2 in match-ups with longtime friends, losing to Andy Kennedy and Ole Miss, 86-74, on Nov. 20, 2009 at the Puerto Rico Tipoff before knocking off Anthony Grant and Alabama, 87-74, on Dec. 19, 2009 in Mobile, Ala.

Free Basketball
K-State and West Virginia gave the fans their money’s worth on Thursday, battling through two overtimes before the Mountaineers prevailed 85-80.  It marked the 104th overtime game in school history, including the 13th to go at least two overtimes, while it was the first overtime game 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 65-39 in overtime games, including 6-4 in two-overtime contests.  It was the first regular-season overtime game since March 6, 2010 (85-82 loss to Iowa State) and the first double-OT game since 2005.  

Getting Defensive 
Despite giving up a season-best 85 points in double-overtime to West Virginia, K-State has been a solid defensive team this season.  The squad is allowing 63.3 points on 35.9 percent shooting (129-of-359), including 26.4 percent (28-of-106) from 3-point range, to go with 41.3 rebounds, 6.2 blocks and 6.2 steals per game.  The Wildcats are forcing opponents into 17.2 turnovers per game and averaging 17.3 points off those miscues.  Coming into the week, the team ranked among the Top 50 in four defensive categories, including fourth in field goal percentage defense, 15th in blocked shots, 23rd in 3-point field goal percentage and 41st in scoring defense.  They were also in Top 5 in the Big 12 seven defensive categories, including first in rebounding and second in field goal percentage defense, 3-point field goal percentage defense and offensive rebounds.  Four players are averaging better than 5.2 rebounds per game, while  Junior Jordan Henriquez ranks ninth nationally in blocked shots with 3.5 per game.

Second Half Surge 
Just six games into the season, it appears that Kansas State should start its games in the second half.  The Wildcats are averaging 42.7 points on 54.6 percent shooting from the field in the second half compared to just 30.7 points on 34.5 percent shooting in the opening half.  The squad has shot better than 50 percent from the field in the second half in five of six games, including a season-best 65.6 percent shooting (21-of-32) with 56 points against Maryland-Eastern Shore on Nov. 22.  This trend continued against West Virginia on Thursday, as the Wildcats scored 33 points on 56.5 percent shooting (13-of-23) after opening the game with 31 points on just 33.3 percent shooting (10-of-30).  The squad has statistically been a better defensive team in the second half, as foes are averaging 28.5 points on 33.1 percent shooting, including 17.9 percent from 3-point range after halftime compared to 31.3 points on 37.5 percent shooting, including 37 percent from beyond the arc, in the first half.  There is also a marked difference from first to second half from the free throw line, where the Wildcats are hitting at 66.3 percent after halftime compared to 58.2 percent in the opening half.   The team has also reduced their turnovers from 8.0 in the first half to 6.7 in the second half. 

K-State’s top four scorers - Rodney McGruder, Will Spradling, Jamar Samuels and Thomas Gipson - also are better in the second half with Spradling (9.0 ppg.), Samuels (8.3 ppg.), McGruder (8.2 ppg.) and Gipson (5.5 ppg.) all averaging better than five points after halftime.  The quartet have combined to score 169 of their 277 combined points (61 percent) this season in the second half.  In particular, Spradling has tallied 54 of his 76 points after halftime, including all 15 vs. Loyola Chicago on Nov. 14.

Closing on 1500  
Kansas State is closing in on a milestone as a program, as the Wildcats are just eight victories shy of 1,500.  The school currently stands at 1,492-1,057 (.585) in 108 seasons, which ranks 41st all-time in NCAA Division I history.  K-State would become the sixth current Big 12 program (West Virginia already has more than 1,600) to eclipse the milestone, following Kansas (2,041), Texas (1,643), Oklahoma (1,531), Oklahoma State (1,522) and Missouri (1,506).  The Cowboys and Tigers earned their 1,500th victories last season.  The Wildcats could become the seventh team to top 1,500 wins this season, joining St. Joseph’s (1,502), Ohio State (1,501), Michigan State (1,498), Washington State (1,497), Tennessee (1,491) and Iowa (1,490).

Martin Wins 100
Head coach Frank Martin became the fourth K-State head coach to earn his 100th career victory, including the second-fastest, in last Sunday’s 69-61 win at Virginia Tech.  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 Lon Kruger as the only head coaches in school history to guide teams to the postseason in his first four seasons. 

No Blowouts 
Aside from a 42-point win over Maryland-Eastern on Nov. 22, K-State has already proved to play in close games this season.  In the first two games, the Wildcats have had to rally back from a 15-point deficit against Charleston Southern on Nov. 11 then pull away from Loyola Chicago in the second half on Nov. 14 after leading 28-23 at halftime.  The 18-point combined margin of victory was the fewest through the first two games since the Wildcats combined for 13 in wins against North Dakota State (70-61) and Denver (60-56) to start the 2004-05 season.  Despite the big win, the UMES game was tied 23-all with 6:16 left in the first half before a big run opened the game up.  The contest against George Washington on Dec. 1 was again tight with K-State holding a 39-37 edge with 16:11 left before a pivotal 10-0 run broke the game open in a 13-point victory.  The Wildcats and Hokies were tied 43-all in the second half before a 10-0 run clinched the victory.  The squad was down as many as eight points in the first half.  Again on Thursday, the teams battled through 17 ties and nine lead changes in West Virginia’s 85-80 win in double-overtime.   

Points Off Turnovers 
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 2,640 points off of 2,364 turnovers in 144 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, 104-74.  This was no more evident in the win over Maryland-Eastern Shore on Nov. 22, as the Wildcats converted 18 miscues into a 26-3 edge in points off turnovers.  The squad is pressuring its foes into an average of 17.3 turnovers per game, including a season-high 22 by Charleston Southern in the season opener.  

Impressive Night on the Boards 
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 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.

Quite the Run
After playing two close games to start the season, K-State finally was able to coast to a 42-point victory against Maryland-Eastern Shore on Nov. 22.  However, it was a close contest between the teams in the first half with the score knotted at 23-all with 6:16 remaining and just a 36-29 lead for the Wildcats at the break.  From this last tie at 6:16 mark of the first half, the squad used quite the run - 69-27 - between the halves to gain the big victory.  During this run, K-State connected on 61 percent (25-of-41) from the field, including 42.9 percent (6-of-14) from 3-point range, and 81.3 percent (13-of-16) from the free throw line, while holding UMES to 23.5 percent (8-of-34) from the field, including 15.4 percent (2-of-13) from long range, and 47.4 percent (9-of-19) from the free throw line.  In the second half alone, the Wildcats shot 65.6 percent (21-of-32) from the field.

Comeback ‘Cats
K-State opened the season on Nov. 11 with a come-from-behind victory over Charleston Southern, 72-67, before a sold-out crowd at Bramlage Coliseum.  Down as many as 15 points in the second half, the Wildcats used a 19-4 run over an 11-minute span early in the half to tie it at 60-all at the 4:35 mark before taking over the lead for good with 2:24 left.  The 15-point deficit overcome for victory (52-37) was one of the biggest in recent history for K-State, as it ties for fifth currently behind a pair of 17-point deficits in wins against Bradley (47-30) on Nov. 25, 1995 and California (38-21) on Dec. 29, 1995 and two 16-point deficits in wins against LaSalle (57-41) on Jan. 5, 1994 and New Mexico (30-14) on Nov. 23, 2005.  The 14-point deficit at halftime (49-35) ties for the largest overcome for victory since a 98-90 overtime win against Arizona State on Nov. 24, 1998 at the Maui Invitational.  It was also the largest deficit overcome at home since the 1995-96 season behind the Bradley game on Nov. 25, 1995.

No Senior Starter
The starting line-up of juniors Martavious Irving, Rodney McGruder and Jordan Henriquez, sophomore Will Spradling and freshman Thomas Gipson against Charleston Southern on Nov. 11 was unique in that it marked the first time since 1983-84 that K-State opened a season without a senior starter.  It was the first career starts for Irving and Gipson.  Gipson joined a special group by becoming the first true freshman to start an opener since three rookies - Ron Anderson, Michael Beasley and Jacob Pullen - earned the starting nod against Sacramento State on Nov. 9, 2007. 

Samuels Named Phillips 66 Big 12 Player of the Week
Senior Jamar Samuels was named the Phillips 66 Big 12 Player of the Week Monday after averaging a double-double in wins over George Washington and Virginia Tech last week.  Samuels, who earned the weekly honor for the first time in his career, helped the Wildcats move to 5-0 for the first time since 2008-09 with wins over the Colonials and the Hokies.  He 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.  Although Samuels had just eight points in a loss to West Virginia, he became the 23rd player in school and the third under Frank Martin to eclipse the 1,000-point barrier.

Samuels had to sit out the exhibition and the first two games of the season due to violations of team rules, making his debut against Maryland-Eastern Shore with 12 points on Nov. 22.  Through four games, he is averaging a 11.8 points and 7.5 rebounds in 24.8 minutes per game, including double-figure scoring games in three of the last four games.  The 2009-10 Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year, Samuels’ experience will be big asset to a youthful squad having played in 107 games in his career with 28 starts.  He is averaging 9.4 points on 48.8 percent shooting in his career with 5.1 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game. 
Immediate Impact
True 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 in the top-3 in both scoring (12.5 ppg., third) and rebounding (7.5 rpg., second), while connecting on 50.9 percent (27-of-53) from the field in six starts.  He has been even better in the last five games, leading the team in scoring against Loyola Chicago (19), Maryland-Eastern Shore (13) and George Washington (17), while averaging 14.6 points on 52 percent (26-of-50) shooting with 9.0 rebounds in 25.2 minutes per game.  Against George Washington, Gipson became the first freshman since Michael Beasley in 2007-08 to collect a double-double with 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting and 13 rebounds.  He followed that up with his second double-double in three games with 15 points (including a 7-of-8 effort from the free throw line) in the loss to West Virginia on Thursday.  He came close to the feat against UMES on Nov. 22 with 13 points (on 5-of-8 field goals) with nine rebounds.  After struggling in the season opener with Charleston Southern (two points, zero rebounds), he broke out against Loyola Chicago on Nov. 14, recording a season-best 19 points to go with seven rebounds (including a 12-point, 6-rebound effort in second half).  Although he struggled statistically, he still became the first true freshman to start an opener since the three rookies - Ron Anderson, Beasley and Jacob Pullen - earned the starting nod against Sacramento State on Nov. 9, 2007.

Coming Through in the Clutch
Sophomore Will Spradling has solidified the starting point guard spot so far this season, averaging 12.7 points on 43.1 percent shooting with 2.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists in six starts.  He has registered double figures in four of the six games, including a season-best 16 against West Virginia on 6-of-11 field goals, including 4-of-8 from long range.  His 16-point outing was just one short of his career-high of 17 against Baylor on Jan. 24, 2011 and two ahead of his 15-point efforts against Charleston Southern and Loyola Chicago this season.  Spradling has also come through in the clutch, scoring 54 of his 76 points this season in the second half, including all 15 against Loyola.  He is averaging 9.0 points on 43.8 percent shooting after halftime compared to just 3.7 points on 44.4 percent shooting in the first half.  He has also converted on 18-of-21 free throws in the second half, while 10 of his 12 assists have come after the break.  He has also continued to demonstrate his toughness by taking 12 charges, including three each in three games.  He is now has 33 in 40 career games, which ties Jamar Samuels (33) for the most on the team.