No. 17 K-State Hosts North Florida on New Year's Eve

Sophomore Rodney McGruder had a career-high 24 points against UMKC on Dec. 23.

Dec. 30, 2010

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17/17 Kansas State (10-3, 0-0 Big 12)
vs. North Florida (4-8, 1-1 Atlantic Sun)

Date: Friday, December 31, 2010  |  Tipoff: 1 p.m. CT
Location: Manhattan, Kan.  |  Arena: Bramlage Coliseum (12,528)  | 
Live Stats: www.k-statesports.com  |  Internet: ESPN Full Court/ESPN3.com
Television: FSN Kansas City (Brent Stover, play-by-play; Rich Zvosec, analyst; Allan Flowers, producer)  |  Channels: DirecTV 672, Dish 445
Radio: K-State Sports Network (Dave Riggert, play-by-play; Matt Walters, analyst)  | 
Satellite Radio: SIRIUS 125   
Head Coaches: Kansas State - Frank Martin (Florida International `93) is 82-35 (.701) in his fourth season as a head coach and at the school.  North Florida - Matthew Driscoll (Slippery Rock `92) is 43-103 (.294) in his sixth season as a coach and 17-26 (.395) in third season at the school.
Series: First meeting  |  Martin vs. Driscoll:  0-0  |   K-State vs. Atlantic Sun:  5-1  |  Last time vs. Atlantic Sun:  W, Kennesaw State, 12/17/06
Last Time Out:  K-State knocked off UMKC, 80-64, at home eight days ago on Dec. 23, while North Florida lost at Maryland, 85-62, on Dec. 29.
Rankings: K-State fell six spots to No. 17 in both AP and USA Today/ESPN Top 25 polls on Monday, while North Florida is not ranked in either poll.
Tickets: Available by calling the K-State Athletics Ticket Office at (800) 221.CATS or online at www.k-statesports.com.

K-State returns from holiday break to host North Florida
No. 17/17 Kansas State (10-3) returns from a much-needed eight-day break from competition on Friday afternoon, as the Wildcats host North Florida (4-8, 1-1 Atlantic Sun) at Bramlage Coliseum on New Year's Eve.  It will be the first contest for the squad since ending a two-game skid with an 80-64 win over UMKC on Dec. 23.  The Wildcats have won 30 consecutive non-conference games at Bramlage Coliseum dating back to a overtime loss to Oregon in overtime on Nov. 29, 2007.  The game will be broadcast regionally by FOX Sports Kansas City with Brent Stover (play-by-play) and Rich Zvosec (analyst) on the call, while it will be available nationally on ESPN Full Court and on ESPN3.com.  It will be the first of two games in a four-day span to conclude non-conference action, as the squad hosts Savannah State (1-14) on Monday, Jan. 3.  The team is 58-4 (.949) at home against non-conference foes since 2004-05, including 32-2 under head coach Frank Martin.

K-State snapped its first two-game losing streak in non-conference play since November 2008, as the Wildcats got a career-high 24 points from sophomore Rodney McGruder to post an 80-64 win over UMKC on Dec. 23.  It marked the second consecutive game without seniors Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly, who were suspended on Dec. 20 due to secondary NCAA rules violations.  The two were declared ineligible by K-State after athletics officials confirmed they had received impermissible benefits on the purchase of clothing at a local department store.  The school learned prior to the UNLV game on Tuesday, Dec. 21 that Pullen would be required to miss three games as a result of a ruling by the NCAA
Student-Athlete Reinstatement staff.  The department announced on Dec. 28 that Kelly would miss six games due to his involvement.  Pullen will be eligible to return on Monday, Jan. 3 against Savannah State, while Kelly will be available for the Texas Tech contest on Saturday, Jan. 15.

The suspensions were disappointing for a Kansas State team counting on the leadership of its lone two seniors, most notably Pullen, who became the school's first preseason All-American and was the coaches' top pick as the preseason Big 12 Player of the Year.  The leader scorer in nine of 11 games, Pullen saw his streak of 115 consecutive games played end with the suspension, including 82 starts in a row.  The 115-game streak is fifth-longest in school history and the longest since Steve Henson played in 127 straight contests from 1987-90.  Kelly, who joined Pullen on the preseason All-Big 12 team, ranked third in scoring at 10.3 points per game after earning recognition to several All-Newcomer teams as a junior.

Despite the absence of these players, the youthful Wildcats topped the 80-point barrier for the first time in four games with an 80-64 victory over UMKC on Dec. 23.  It was the school's 15th win in 16 all-time meetings with the Kanagaroos, including a perfect 9-0 at home.  Starting three sophomores and a freshman for the second consecutive contest, the Wildcats raced out to a 44-29 halftime advantage behind 8-of-10 shooting from 3-point range then held on in the second half to extend their Bramlage Coliseum winning streak against non-conference foes to 30 games. 

Despite shooting just 40.3 percent from the field, the squad eclipsed 80 points for the fifth time this season and the first time since the Alcorn State game on Dec. 6.  The 80-point effort broke a two-game scoring slump, in which, the team averaged just 51.5 points on 33.6 percent shooting, including 19.4 percent from beyond the arc.  It was the worst two-game scoring stretch since averaging 50.5 points in games against Nebraska and Kansas in January 2006.  The Wildcats connected on 57.9 percent from 3-point range against the `Roos and were one short of their season-high for treys with 11.  The squad controlled the paint with 49 rebounds, including a season-best 26 offensive boards, while scoring a season-high 25 second-chance points.  After turning the ball over a season-worst 23 times against UNLV, the team cut that total more than in half (11), while dishing out 20 assists.  It marked just the second time that the squad has topped 20 assists in a game.         

The Wildcats got another balanced scoring effort against UMKC, as three players scored in double figures led by McGruder's career-high 24-point effort.  He posted career-highs in five categories, including points, field goals (eight), field goals attempted (14), 3-point field goals (seven) and 3-point field goals attempted (10), while collecting just his second 20-point game and the first since the Boston University game in the first round of the Puerto Rico Tip-off on Nov. 19, 2009.  His seven treys tied nine other players for fourth in 3-point field goals made in a game in school history.  It was the first time that a Wildcat connected on seven 3-pointers since Pullen did against BYU in the NCAA Tournament.

McGruder's roommate, sophomore Wally Judge, broke out for his first career double-double with 14 points and a career-high 11 rebounds in 25 minutes of action against the `Roos.  Judge, who has missed much of the past six games dealing with some personal issues, earned his first start since the Texas Southern game on Nov. 26.  Freshman guard Will Spradling continued his impressive play of late with a season-high 15 points against his hometown school to go with season-bests in field goals (five), field goals attempted (10), 3-point field goals (three), 3-point field goals attempted (four) and minutes (29).  He has averaged 10.5 points in the last two games on 50 percent shooting (7-of-14), including 71.4 percent (5-of-7) from 3-point range, after averaging just 3.0 points on 24 percent shooting (6-of-25), including 0-of-13 from beyond the arc, in the previous seven games.  Sophomore guard Nick Russell was solid all-around with eight points, a career-high six rebounds and four assists in 25 minutes.  Junior Jamar Samuels struggled shooting the ball, but did dish out five assists to go with five rebounds in 25 minutes.

K-State was again solid on the defensive end against UMKC, holding the Kangaroos to 64 points.  The team has now held 11 opponents to 65 points or less, including each of the last eight, while holding eight foes to under 40 percent shooting from the field.  In the past eight games, opponents are averaging just 59.8 points on 37.3 percent shooting, including 27.3 percent from 3-point range, to go with 16.9 turnovers per outing.  The team is 59-8 under head coach Frank Martin when holding an opponent below 70 points, including 10-2 this season.   The Wildcats forced the `Roos into 18 turnovers to just nine assists.  It marked the nation's leading 17th consecutive contest that the squad has forced their opponent into more turnovers than assists.  In fact, the squad is one of just four schools (Cincinnati, Louisville and Washington) in the country to force each of its opponents into more turnovers than assists in every game this season.  
        
The Wildcats are ranked No. 17 in the seventh editions of both The Associated Press and USA Today/ ESPN Coaches Top 25 polls released on Dec. 27 after starting the season at No. 3 for their highest ever preseason rankings in both polls.  The No. 3 ranking was the highest in an AP poll in almost 50 years since the team ranked No. 3 on March 6, 1962.  The squad fell out of the Top 10 on Dec. 20 for the first time in 13 consecutive polls since ranking No. 11 on Jan. 25, 2010.  Overall, the school has appeared in 22 consecutive AP polls dating back to Dec. 14, 2009.  K-State is 230-83 (.735) as a ranked team all-time in The Associated Press poll (which dates to 1949-50), including 13-3 (.813) as 17th-ranked team.

The Book on North Florida
North Florida enters Friday's game with a 4-8 record after dropping its fifth consecutive game on Wednesday night at Maryland, 85-62.  The team has played 13 of its first 16 games on the road, including defeats at Florida State (55-75), Pittsburgh (49-95), Missouri (58-96), Purdue (57-77) and Texas (48-70) to go with the loss to the Terrapins.  They will finish their current season-long five-game road trip at conference foes Belmont and Lipscomb on Jan. 5 and 8, respectively.  The squad led early against Maryland, but could not overcome 35.2 percent shooting from the field, including 38.9 percent from 3-point range, to go with 24 turnovers.  The team returns seven lettermen, including four starters, from a squad that posted a 13-18 overall record, including a 8-12 mark in Atlantic Sun play, in 2009-10.  They are just in their 19th season as a basketball program.      

The Ospreys are averaging 61.8 points on 41.4 percent shooting from the field, including 32.2 percent from 3-point range, with 33.8 rebounds, 10.8 assists, 6.3 steals and 2.3 blocks per game. The team is allowing 73.7 points on 43.4 percent shooting, including 33 percent from beyond the arc, while forcing 19.0 turnovers per game.  The squad has a balanced scoring attack with six players averaging at least six points per game, including two in double figures.  Reserve sophomore Parker Smith leads the team in scoring at 10.7 points per game on 35.5 percent shooting from the field to go with a team-high 28 3-point field goals.  Sophomore Jerron Granberry is second in scoring at 10.3 points per game on 33.7 percent shooting to go with 23 treys.   Sophomore Andy Diaz averages 9.6 points on 52.2 percent shooting to go with a team-best 5.6 rebounds per game.  Diaz is the brother of K-State signee Adrian Diaz, who is his senior season at Miami Lakes High School in Miami, Fla.

North Florida is led by second-year coach Matthew Driscoll, who has guided the school to a 17-26 (.395) record.  He is familiar with the K-State program after having spent six seasons as the top assistant to Baylor head coach Scott Drew.  He helped transform a Bear program crippled by NCAA sanctions to earn its first trip to the NCAA Tournament in almost 20 years in 2007-08 and the NIT Finals a year later in 2008-09.      

Series vs. North Florida
This will be first meeting between K-State and North Florida on the hardwood in school history.  The Wildcats are 5-0 all-time against current members of the Atlantic Sun Conference, including wins at home against Belmont (66-62 in 2005), Lipscomb (88-64 in 2002 and 92-57 in 2003), Kennesaw State (82-54 in 2006) and Mercer (89-60 in 1997).  This will be the first meeting with an Atlantic Sun program in more than four years since the Wildcats dispatched of Kennesaw State, 82-54, on Dec. 17, 2006.  There is one connection between the two programs, as North Florida athletics director Lee Moon served as assistant athletics director at K-State from 1985-88 and was also the interim football coach in 1985. 

Series vs. Savannah State
K-State wraps up non-conference play on Monday night, as the Wildcats play host to Savannah State (1-14) at Bramlage Coliseum beginning at 7 p.m.  The Tigers have lost 14 consecutive games heading into Thursday's contest with Bethune-Cookman.

`Cats in December
Kansas State will look to conclude another strong month of play in December, where the Wildcats have won 44 of their last 56 games.  The team is 451-232 (.660) all-time in December with 35 wins in their last 36 games at home dating back to the 2002-03 season, including a current of streak of 23 consecutive victories at Bramlage Coliseum dating back to the 2004-05 season.  The squad's last home loss in the month came to Rutgers (76-66) on Dec. 28, 2004.  The Wildcats, which completed their first perfect December since 1998 a year ago, saw their 14-game winning streak in the month end in a 57-44 loss to No. 24 Florida at the Orange Bowl Classic on Dec. 18.  It was the first loss in the month since a 75-70 setback at Oregon on Dec. 7, 2008.  The 14-game winning streak was the longest in December in more than 60 years since the team rattled off 16 in a row from Dec. 14, 1946 to Dec. 2, 1948.  K-State has won four or more games in December in each of the last nine seasons, including seven in 2009-10.  The squad has posted a winning mark in the month 63 times, including nine straight seasons.

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 10 players in each of its first 13 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 27.8 points per game off the bench, while out-scoring its 13 foes by a margin of 362-158.  The squad has scored 20 or more points from the bench in 10 of 13 games, including a string of five straight games of at least 30 points from Nov. 16-26 for the first time under head coach Frank Martin, while it posted 40 or more points of production in back-to-back contests for just the second time under Martin and the first time since 2008-09.  The Wildcats scored 86 points from the bench against Duke (45) and Texas Southern (41), which is the most in consecutive games since they totaled 104 points in games against Idaho State (45, 1/3/09) and Chicago State (59, 1/5/09).  The team has seen 10 different players record 40 double-digit scoring efforts this season, including 14 coming off the bench from five separate players.  Junior Jamar Samuels leads the way with six double-digit scoring efforts from the bench.           

Youngsters Stepping 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 solid 10-3 start to the season.  This nucleus has scored 483 of the team's 945 points thus far (51 percent), while posting 258 of 548 rebounds (47 percent), 100 of 186 assists (54 percent) and 45 of 94 steals (48 percent).  The group boasts six of the team's Top 10 scorers, while it includes two of the Top 5 rebounders and four of the Top 5 assists leaders.  Eighteen of 40 double-digit scoring efforts have come from sophomores and freshmen led by guard Rodney McGruder, who leads the team in 3-point field goals (30) and rebounding (6.8 rpg.) and is second in minutes played. (28.5 mpg.).  McGruder is second in scoring at 11.4 points per game, while fellow sophomore Martavious Irving is fifth at 6.7 points per game.  Will Spradling, who became just the second true freshman guard to earn a start under Frank Martin, is sixth in scoring at 5.5 points per game, while he is second in assists (2.1 apg.) and free throw percentage (81.0).

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 2,207 points off of 1,965 turnovers in 117 games, an average of 18.9 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, 231-173.  The squad has scored 20 or more points off of turnovers in four games, including a season-best 33 points against Emporia State on Nov. 29.  The team has pressured their foes into 15 or more turnovers in 10 games, including a season-high 26 vs. James Madison.  The Wildcats are one of just four schools (Louisville, Washington and Cincinnati) to force each of their opponents into more turnovers than assists in every game.

In 2007-08, K-State averaged 18.9 points off of 16.2 turnovers per game, while in 2008-09, the team scored 25.7 points off of an average of 17.0 turnovers.  The 2009-10 season was no different with the squad averaging 19.9 points off of 16.9 turnovers per game.  K-State scored 20+ points off of turnovers 17 times a year ago, including a school-record 40 against South Dakota.  The team scored 20 or more points off of turnovers versus several marquee opponents, including UNLV (26), Alabama (22), Texas A&M (23), Colorado (23 and 26), Nebraska (22 and 29), Oklahoma (23), Missouri (21), Oklahoma State (23) and Baylor (22).  The Wildcats have a 47-5 record when scoring 20+ points off turnovers under Martin. 
      
Pullen Named Preseason AP All-American
The accolades for Jacob Pullen continue to mount, as the senior was named a preseason first team All-American by The Associated Press earlier this month.  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.  Pullen was an honorable mention AP All-American as a junior after leading Kansas State to its first Elite Eight since 1988.  He has 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, to the second team by Dick Vitale and to the third team by Athlon Sports.  He was also selected a preseason Top 50 candidate for the Wooden Award, given to the nation's top player by the Los Angeles Athletic Club, while he was named one of 50 preseason candidates for the Naismith Trophy presented by AT&T on Nov. 16.  Pullen is also a candidate for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award, given to the nation's top all-around senior basketball player.   

Pullen Moving Up the Charts
Senior guard Jacob Pullen is nearing several career milestone in the midst of his fourth and final season at K-State.  With his game-high 19 points against Florida on Saturday, he moved past Bob Boozer (1,685, 1956-59) into fourth place on the school's all-time scoring chart.  This came after his 19-point output at Loyola Chicago on Dec. 11 moved him past Steve Henson (1,655, 1987-90).  Just the sixth player in school history and the first since Askia Jones in 1993 to top the 1,600-point barrier, Pullen's current total of 1,688 points in 115 career games is less than 200 points behind Rolando Blackman (1,844, 1977-81)and Askia Jones (1,834, 1989-94) for second and third places, respectively.  One of three players (Mike Evans and Rolando Blackman) in school history to score 1,500 points in his first three seasons, he has an outside chance (needs 427 points) to become the school's all-time scoring champion, which is currently held by Mike Evans with 2,115 points from 1974-78. 

Pullen ranks among the Top 10 in 18 career categories, including 13 in the Top 5 in school history.  Already the school's career record holder for 3-point field goal attempted (701), he became the leader in 3-point field goals (now at 246) in the win over Emporia State on Nov. 29 with four treys, breaking his second-place tie with Askia Jones (237, 1989-94) and passing former leader Steve Henson (240, 1987-90).  His next record could come in steals, where his 182 career thefts trail Henson by eight.  With his six makes against the Gators, he became the first Wildcat since Boozer to connect on 400 free throws in a career.  He ranks third in assists (382), free throws attempted (527), steals per game (1.58) and consecutive games started (82), fourth in double-digit scoring games (85) and minutes (3,294) and fifth in consecutive games played (115) and starts (96).  In addition to his records, Pullen is the first player in school history to be named team captain three consecutive years.

`Cats Picked to Win Big 12 Crown
A consensus Top 10 by a number of media outlets, K-State earned another first in October as the Wildcats were selected to win the Big 12 title for the first time in a vote of the league's head coaches.  The school received 119 points and 10 first-place votes to out-distance rival and reigning champion Kansas, which was picked second with 109 points and the remaining two first-place votes.  Texas (99) and Baylor (96) followed closely in third and fourth place, respectively, while Missouri (82) and Texas A&M (69) rounded out the top 6.  The rest of the poll included Texas Tech (52), Oklahoma State (51), Colorado (46), Nebraska (31), Oklahoma (27) and Iowa State (11).  Coaches are not allowed to vote for their own teams.  The previous high for K-State in the preseason poll was fourth in both 2007-08 and 2009-10.  The Wildcats, who tied for second place in the Big 12 a year ago, are one of only two teams to finish in the league's top-4 and receive a bye at the Big 12 Championship each of the past four seasons.

K-State ranks No. 3 in Preseason AP, USA Today/ESPN polls
Kansas State earned its highest preseason ranking in both The Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN Coaches polls, as the Wildcats appeared at No. 3 in both polls.  The No. 3 ranking ties for the highest of any of the major polls, in which, the squad is ranked in the Top 10 in nearly every poll.  It is the highest ever ranking for K-State in a preseason poll and the highest by the AP since it began preseason rankings in 1961.  The previous high for a preseason ranking came at No. 8 by the AP in both the 1961-62 and 1964-65 seasons.  The No. 3 ranking is the highest in an AP poll in almost 50 years since the team ranked No. 3 on March 6, 1962.  K-State was the highest rated Big 12 team in AP poll, which also included No. 7 Kansas, No. 15 Missouri and No. 16 Baylor.  The Wildcats have been ranked in the Top 10 in nearly every preseason poll, including No. 4 by Lindy's Sports, No. 5 by Athlon Sports, ESPN.com, FOXSports.com and The Sporting News, No. 8 by Dick Vitale and No. 10 by Blue Ribbon Yearbook.

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 seasons, 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.

Fans still wanting to catch the Wildcats in action this season will have the opportunity to purchase single-game tickets to three home games during the holiday semester break when students are not on campus as well as the Hy-Vee Wildcat Classic at the Sprint Center in Kansas City against UNLV on Tuesday, Dec. 21.  Single-game tickets went on sale on Nov. 1 for UMKC (Thursday, Dec. 23), North Florida (Friday, Dec. 31) and Savannah State (Monday, Jan. 3) during the holiday break.  For $20 per game, or $45 for all three match-ups, fans can choose between reserved seats in Section 18 or 25, or general admission tickets.  Tickets can be purchased online at www.kstatesports.com or by calling toll free at (800) 221.CATS.    

Diaz, Gipson Sign with K-State for 2011-12
Head coach Frank Martin announced the signing of high school standouts Adrian Diaz (Miami, Fla./Hialeah-Miami Lakes) and Thomas Gipson (Cedar Hill, Texas/Cedar Hill) to National Letters of Intent on Nov. 14.  Both players are listed on the Rivals150 by Rivals.com with the 6-foot-7, 245-pound Gipson listed at No. 142 and the 6-foot-11, 220-pound Diaz checking in at No. 145.  Gipson is listed 24th nationally among power forwards by Rivals.com, while Diaz ranks 17th among centers nationally. 
 
An emerging post prospect, Diaz is currently a senior at Hialeah-Miami Lakes High School in Hialeah, Fla.  As a junior, he averaged 13 points, eight rebounds and four blocks for the Trojans, which posted a 5-15 overall record and 3-7 mark in league play in 2009-10.  He was named preseason honorable mention all-state by FloridaHoops.com.  He will be the third member of his family to play college basketball, following his brothers, Eric, who played at Eckerd College, and Andres (Andy), who currently is a sophomore forward at North Florida.  He received scholarship offers from a variety of schools, including Virginia Tech, South Florida and FIU, along with interest from Alabama, Florida, Tennessee and Syracuse.

Rated as the 13th-best prospect in the state of Texas by TexasHoops.com, Gipson is currently a senior at Cedar Hill High School in Cedar Hill, Texas.  As a junior, he led the team in scoring (16 ppg.) and rebounding (7.2 rpg.) en route to helping the Longhorns to a 28-4 overall record and a trip to the area round of the 2010 UIL (University Interscholastic League) Class 5A Tournament.  The team ranked as high as No. 6 in the TABC (Texas Association of Basketball Coaches) Class 5A state poll before losing to Lewisville, 84-82, in the area-round playoffs.  Gipson was a TABC first team Class 5A All-State selection and was co-MVP of District 7-5A.  He helped Cedar Hill to the 2009 Class 5A state final as a sophomore where he averaged 12.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.  He was named first team All-Area by the Dallas Morning News and was the District 7-5A Sophomore of the Year.  He received scholarship offers from a number of schools, including Baylor, California, Oklahoma State and West Virginia.