Kansas State shows enough depth to beat UMKC without seniors

MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Rodney McGruder shot 300 3-pointers in practice and then kept them coming Thursday night.

Doing his best to ignore the discomfort from an emergency root canal, the 6-foot-5 sophomore hit seven 3-pointers and scored a career-high 24 points to help No. 11 Kansas State beat UMKC 80-64.

McGruder was 7 for 10 from beyond the arc for the short-handed Wildcats (10-3), who dominated the slower and shorter Kangaroos most of the game in spite of being without Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly, their only two seniors, who have been suspended.

On Wednesday night, McGruder stayed late after practice to work on his shot.

"I was feeling it. I was in rhythm," said McGruder, his lip still swollen from the dental work after chipping a front tooth when he fell face-first onto the court during a game against UNLV two nights earlier.

"I'm not hurting but my lip is still swollen," he said. "A little pain from having a root canal. I had it done today and yesterday. Finished it today."

In a scene that was played over and over on sports highlight shows, McGruder had wobbled off the court as officials picked up the tooth.

"I had to have a cap put on my teeth because of how bad it was," McGruder said.

Kansas State coach Frank Martin opened his postgame news conference explaining that he'd meant no harm when he tore into reporters on Tuesday night after losing to UNLV. He became angry, he said, because he'd asked reporters not to ask about Pullen and Kelly, whose suspensions had been announced right before tipoff of that game.

"I was wrong for the way I dealt with the press conference the other day. It's not your guys' fault that our players got in trouble. It's not your guys' fault that we lost. It's my fault," Martin said.

"What I don't appreciate is when I ask you to respect something on my behalf, when I give you guys every media interview you ask for, and I give you every answer you ever want, is for that, whatever I ask, to be disrespected."

Pullen, the Wildcats' captain and preseason All-American, was ordered by the NCAA to sit out three games for receiving impermissible benefits. Kelly was suspended for a length of time that has not yet been determined.

Jay Couisnard had 21 points for UMKC and was 11 for 11 from the free throw line -- matching Kansas State's team total from the line. The Wildcats, who have struggled at the charity stripe all season, were just 11 for 27.

Reggie Chamberlain had 11 points for the Kangaroos.

Without Pullen and Kelly, the Wildcats are clearly not the team that was picked as preseason favorite in the Big 12 and ranked as high as No. 3 in the nation.

But they had plenty left to take care of the Kangaroos (7-5), who dropped to 1-15 all-time against Kansas State.

When Max Rockmann scored about 7 minutes into the second half to make it 56-38, it was just the fourth two-point field goal of the game for the Kangaroos.

But trailing by as many as 20 points early in the second half, the Kangaroos kept chipping away until Spencer Johnson's 3-pointer sliced the lead to 67-57 with 5:44 left.

Wally Judge then banked home a short shot and Johnson drew his fifth foul. With Will Spradling's driving runner and Judge's rebound and putback, the Wildcats were back on top 73-57 with 3:25 left.

McGruder drilled his seventh 3-pointer to make it 78-61. His seven 3s were one off the team record.

Judge, who was benched for three games this season for unspecified reasons, had his best game of the season with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Spradling, taking over at point guard for Pullen, had 15 points.

"It was a big game for Wally," McGruder said. "I believe now he has that swagger back about himself. He's a great player and he can be unstoppable in the post. That's all that was missing. He needed a game like this, to step up and get that double-double."

Just seconds before Spencer fouled out with 13 points and five rebounds, another UMKC starter, Trinity Hall, went to the bench with eight points and six rebounds. By the end of the first half, the outmanned Kangaroos trailed 44-29 and had three players with three fouls. After hitting just 6 of 20 from the field in the first half, UMKC wound up shooting 18 of 51 for the game. But Kansas State's 29 for 72 was not much better. The Wildcats held a 49-34 rebounding edge and had a whopping 26 offensive boards.

"They really struggled from the foul line but we did not rebound and that was the difference in the game," UMKC coach Matt Brown said. "We would have had ample opportunities to make it a single-digit game with about 6 minutes to go."