Kansas State pounds Mizzou, 78-68

McGruder too much for Mizzou as Tigers suffer first home loss of season

Story by Kaveh Kaghazi
Photos by Ryan Williams

With less than four minutes to go in the first half, the No. 3 ranked Missouri Tigers trailed Kansas State by nine at Mizzou Arena, when senior forward Kim English was called for a technical foul. A fan in the crowd below press row could be seen slapping his hands against the concrete wall in frustration of Missouri’s struggles.

Kim English (center) gets benched after recording his third personal foul in the first half, a technical foul for aggressively slamming the basketball to the floor. English is shown here between forward Matt Pressey (left) and Mizzou’s Director of Athletic Performance Todor Pandov (right).

It was that kind of night for the Tigers, as they suffered their first loss at home this season, dropping to 25-3 and 12-3 in Big 12 play. Kansas State used their physicality, length and a deep, nine-man rotation to foil Missouri’s chance at a school-record 26-2 start.

Kansas State coach Frank Martin can say he’s done it twice to Missouri this season. The Wildcats handed Missouri its first loss of the season on Jan. 7, and finished a sweep of the Tigers in Columbia, fighting their way to a 78-68 win in front of a late-arriving crowd at Mizzou Arena.

A visibly frustrated Frank Haith praised Kansas State for their effort and execution after the game.

“I think their physicality kind of got to us,” Haith said. “The game—the way it was played tonight, it was to their advantage.”

In so many games this season, it’s been the Tigers who have forced their opponent to adapt to their fast-paced style. On Tuesday night, it was the Wildcats who imposed their scrappy, hard-nosed style, forcing Haith’s squad to adapt to them.

After stunning No. 13 Baylor on the road Saturday, Feb. 18, 57-56, Kansas State junior guard Rodney McGruder said the Wildcats came into Mizzou Arena with a lot of confidence.

“Why not come in here and get a victory?” McGruder said.

After scoring 20 points against Missouri on Jan. 7, McGruder poured in a game-high 24 points, including a perfect eight for eight at the free-throw line. The Wildcats took a 40-30 lead into halftime—Missouri’s largest halftime deficit at home this season.

“We didn’t punch back early,” senior forward Kim English said. “And when you do that when you play good teams it’s an uphill battle all the way and it just hurt us.”

Martin’s team was fortunate to hold Missouri to a low shooting percentage for the second time this season, as the Tigers shot just above 32 percent in the season’s first matchup.

Missouri shot just above 38 percent from the field for the game and connected on eight of 26 3-pointers. The Tigers were especially cold late, missing on nine 3-point attempts in the game’s final five minutes.

“We were trying to get a five-point shot,” Haith said. “Instead of continuing to play and be aggressive and attacking…I thought we settled.”

Kansas State’s lead ballooned to 61-45 after a McGruder layup with 12:31 remaining when Missouri started to make a run. Momentum began to shift toward the Tigers when junior guard Michael Dixon nailed a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 11. The teams traded baskets before Missouri guard Phil Pressey found an open English for a 3-pointer, cutting the Wildcats lead to three with 6:43 to go.

As the crowd at Mizzou Arena erupted, McGruder calmly took the ball in his hands, and drilled a 3-pointer, pushing the lead back up to six.

Missouri continued to rally, but the Wildcats kept coming with answers, spoiling any potential comeback. Missouri capped a 21-9 run when Dixon connected on two free throws to cut the lead to 70-66 with 2:21 remaining, but after a Tigers timeout, Kansas State guard Angel Rodriguez dribbled down the baseline and found an open Jordan Henriquez for an alley-oop dunk that slammed the door shut on Missouri’s quest for a perfect home record.

“Their length does bother us,” Haith said. “They’re very aggressive and physical.”

Missouri battled foul trouble for most of the game as English and center Steve Moore both eventually fouled out of the game. English picked up his third foul in the first half before throwing the ball to the ground prompting the official to call a technical foul on him. English played most of the second half with four fouls and Pressey finished the game with four fouls.

“Not having depth really hurt us,” Haith said.

The loss was just the fourth time in 70 games this Tigers’ senior class has lost at Mizzou Arena in their careers. Senior guard Marcus Denmon finished with 19 points. Dixon scored a team-high 21.

The loss dropped the Tigers to a half-game behind Kansas in the Big 12 standings. Missouri travels to Lawrence, Kan. Saturday to square off against the No. 4 Kansas Jayhawks from Allen Fieldhouse, as they attempt to regain the lead in the Big 12 race.


One response to “Kansas State pounds Mizzou, 78-68

  1. Pingback: KC SportsNation » K-State > Mizzou x2: EMAW sweeps Mizzou (highlights and links) » KC SportsNation

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