Shane Southwell, Angel Rodriguez, Rodney McGruder

No. 13 K-State beats Cyclones, seizes control of Big 12 race


It’s been a great hoops season in the state of Kansas, with all three of the state’s DI teams battling for league titles and national rankings. But as of right now, there can be no debate. The best team in the Sunflower State is the Kansas State Wildcats.

K-State dumped a tough, rangy Iowa State team by a score of 79-70 on Saturday evening, moving to 8-2 in league play and sole possession of first place in the Big 12. Bruce Weber’s Wildcats are getting it done with Rodney McGruder’s star power and a solid supporting cast that makes ball control a way of life.

They’ll put those skills to the ultimate test on Monday, as they travel to Allen Fieldhouse and attempt to hand Kansas a fourth-straight loss, which would solidify K-State’s hold on the league lead in a very emphatic and regionally satisfying way. After Monday’s game, the Wildcats have six straight games against unranked foes before ending the season with a trip to current No. 22 Oklahoma State.

Kansas has won the last eight regular-season Big 12 titles, but Kansas State’s well-timed victory over Iowa State, and a chance to sit in the driver’s seat in the league race means more than just local bragging rights. K-State has never won the Big 12. In fact, the last time they won a league title was in 1977, when it was still the Big 8.

The Wildcats can stay on track against a very vulnerable KU team on Monday by doing exactly what they did against Iowa State. K-State shot 50 percent overall as well as 50 percent from behind the arc. Four players – McGruder (22), Angel Rodriguez (20), Thomas Gipson (16) and Martavious Irving (10) – scored in double figures, and the team as a whole shot over 80 percent from the line.

The sudden change from Frank Martin to Bruce Weber was jarring for K-State fans. Eight years of watching in-state rival Kansas win the league title was frustrating, and the long, long time without a title of any kind has to be downright galling.

All of that can be washed away. The Wildcats have rarely had a better chance than they do right now.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

As good as they’ve been, No. 3 Michigan State has yet to play their best

Bryn Forbes, Ryan Fazekas
Associated Press
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Sunday night’s Wooden Legacy title game matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence was billed as a matchup of the nation’s two best players, and rightfully so. Michigan State senior Denzel Valentine (17 points, six rebounds, five assists), who already has two triple-doubles to his credit this season, and Providence redshirt junior Kris Dunn (21 points, five rebounds, seven assists) have more than lived up to the preseason expectations and more of the same was expected in Anaheim.

And while both had their moments, it was Michigan State’s supporting cast that made the difference in their 77-64 victory. The scary thing for future opponents on Michigan State’s schedule is that Tom Izzo’s team is nowhere near being a finished product.

With Valentine dealing with first-half foul trouble Bryn Forbes stepped up, scoring 13 of his 18 points to help the Spartans take a two-point lead into the half. As for the 11-0 run that Michigan State produced to take control of the game late, a host of players stepped forward in regards to scoring, rebounding and defending.

Freshmen Deyonta Davis and Matt McQuaid combined to score nine points over the final 5:32, with transfer guard Eron Harris adding six of his 12 points during that stretch. The Spartans outscored the Friars, who aren’t as deep, 22-7 during that stretch to close out the game, hunting for quality shots and hitting the offensive glass while making things difficult for Providence on the other end of the floor.

The end result was a final margin that does not indicate just how close the game was. While Providence seemed to run out of steam Michigan State received contributions from multiple players, which is undoubtedly a good sign for this group moving forward.

The Spartans will return the currently injured Gavin Schilling later this season, giving them another big man alongside Davis, Matt Costello and Colby Wollenman. He was a player they missed Sunday night, as he can defend opposing big men both in the post and on the perimeter. His absence was a main reason Michigan State didn’t have an answer for Providence’s Ben Bentil (20 points, seven rebounds) defensively.

The key for this group is going to end up being role definition, which is especially true in the case of Harris. A transfer from West Virginia, Harris came to East Lansing with the reputation of being a big time scorer. He’s struggled through the first two weeks of the season, but he got on a roll on Sunday night, finishing with 12 points, three boards and three assists. He showed he’s capable of doing a variety of things on the perimeter, and fitting into a “Swiss army knife” kind of role would make Michigan State that much more dangerous.

There’s no denying that Michigan State has been one of the nation’s best teams thus far.

But there’s also no denying that the Spartans have yet to hit their ceiling, which is definitely a positive moving forward.

Wichita State’s Anton Grady returns home with team

AP Photo/Willie J. Allen Jr.
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Wichita State forward Anton Grady was released from a hospital in Orlando on Sunday afternoon in time to return home with his Shocker teammates.

Grady suffered a spinal corn concussion on Friday when he collided head-first with an Alabama defender, snapping his head sharply to the side. He lay on the court motionless for 10 minutes after the injury and was taken off the floor on a stretcher.

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“I want to send out a big thank you to Shocker Nation and all of my friends and family for of the love and encouragement that I have received the past few days,” Grady said in a statement on Sunday morning. “I’ve been reading your tweets and posts and appreciate every last one of them. I have a lot of work to do to get back on the court, but with the help of such a great support system, I’m ready for the challenge.”

By Friday night, Grady had feeling in all of his extremities, but he has a long road of rehab ahead of him.