MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State coach Bruce Weber had a simple query for his players before Tuesday night's game against Texas Southern. The Wildcats were coming off a double-digit road loss to No. 14 Gonzaga, and Weber was not happy.
"You guys have got to make a decision," he said. "Are you going to be a team or not?"
A 78-69 victory for the Wildcats would indicate an affirmative response — particularly from senior Rodney McGruder, who scored a season-high 26 points.
"Coach gave a great speech before the game," McGruder said. "That loss at Gonzaga really hurt me, I would say. It woke me up. It was a wake-up call."
McGruder scored the team's first two baskets, floaters in the lane. Texas Southern coach Mike Davis said those early scores opened the floodgates.
"He just got it going early," Davis said. "He came off the down screen and curled it right in the paint and shot two uncontested shots."
"Once you get a guy into a rhythm, it's pretty hard to stop him," Davis added. "I thought he played fantastic tonight."
Weber, in his first year with the Wildcats, said part of what helped McGruder on Tuesday was his willingness to take what the Tigers gave him — especially the opportunity to take advantage of screens by his teammates.
"Tonight, Rod could make those tight little curls and get in the lane, and he jumped up and shot," Weber said. "I think the thing he did tonight was shoot open shots."
Kansas State's Thomas Gipson added 14 points and 12 rebounds. All but one of his baskets came in the second half, helping fend off a late attempt at a rally by the Tigers.
The Wildcats grabbed 38 boards to Texas Southern's 26. They scored 46 points in the paint, while the Tigers managed just 20.