Stillwater, OK (Sports Network) - Needing a win to claim at least a share of the Big 12 Conference title, the ninth-ranked Kansas State Wildcats come calling on the 13th-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys in the regular-season finale for both teams.
Kansas State is a stellar 25-5 overall, and its 14-3 league ledger has it tied with bitter rival Kansas atop the conference standings. The Jayhawks play at Baylor later in the day. The Wildcats beat TCU at home on Tuesday, 79-68, to notch their sixth straight win, and they will try to improve upon their 7-2 road record with a victory this afternoon.
Oklahoma State too has enjoyed an impressive campaign, the team winning 22 of its 29 games, but at 12-5 in conference, the best it can do is finish third. The Cowboys were hoping to keep pace atop the standings, but they dropped an 87-76 decision at Iowa State on Wednesday night. OSU is 14-2 at home this season.
These two teams met in Manhattan back on Jan. 5 in the Big 12 opener, and it was K-State that earned a 73-67 victory. Kansas State has won the last three meetings to take a 73-48 lead in the all-time series.
Kansas State relies heavily on the backcourt duo of Rodney McGruder (14.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg) and Angel Rodriguez (11.5 ppg, 5.5 apg) to lead them to victory, and both have shined more times than not in doing so. As a team, the Wildcats are putting up 69.8 ppg in hitting 44.3 percent of their field goal attempts, which includes a 36.6 percent showing from 3-point range. When they play with their backs to the basket, their average yield checks in at 60.0 ppg, as foes shoot 41.8 percent from the floor, which includes 31.5 percent from beyond the arc, and the 'Cats also own favorable margins in both rebounds (+3.9) and turnovers (+2.6). Rodriguez recorded the second double-double of his career by netting 21 points and dishing out a career-high-tying 10 assists to lead KSU to an 11-point win over visiting TCU earlier in the week. Four others joined Rodriguez in double figures, as Shane Southwell and Montavious Irving tallied 15 apiece, McGruder finished with 13, and Thomas Gipson came off the bench to tack on 11. The Wildcats drained 54.4 percent of their field goal attempts, including 12-of-29 3-point tries, and they finished with 27 assists against only nine turnovers. The Horned Frogs made good on 50 percent of their total shots and claimed a 16-5 edge in points from the foul line.
Offensive production has been plentiful for Oklahoma State this season, as the team averages 72.7 ppg and has four players currently netting double digits on a consistent basis. Markel Brown (15.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg), Marcus Smart (14.9 ppg, 4.3 apg), Le'Bryan Nash (13.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg) and Phil Forte (10.6 ppg) have all excelled at different times this season, and the team has also dialed up the defense when it needs to, yielding just 62.1 ppg with foes shooting below 40 percent from the field. OSU's defensive pressure has resulted in more than 15 turnovers per outing, and the squad is +2.0 in rebounding differential. Smart scored 24 points and pulled down eight rebounds, both of which led the team, but Oklahoma State came out on the losing end of its recent clash with Iowa State. The Pokes shot poorly in the opening half (.323), and while they bounced back to drop half of their total shots after intermission, the Cyclones ramped up their production as well, doing so at a 57.7 percent clip. Nash and Brown both scored 14 points for OSU, and it certainly didn't help matters that the team was outrebounded (38-30) and outscored at the charity stripe (26-18).