MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — In his most impressive performance of the young season, Kansas State's Rodney McGruder showed a glimmer of the ability that made him an early candidate for the Naismith and Wooden awards.
He scored 22 points Sunday as the Wildcats defeated South Carolina-Upstate 72-53.
The total was the largest for McGruder this season, his first under new Kansas State coach Bruce Weber. After leading the Wildcats in scoring last year, McGruder had not cracked double digits in three of the previous six games.
Against the Spartans, he looked more like the scoring machine the Wildcats need for him to be, shooting at a 50 percent clip.
"They were rhythm shots," McGruder said. "It wasn't like I was forcing those shots. It was shots throughout the offense, and I was open."
Weber saw the performance as a step in the right direction for McGruder, but he would prefer the senior guard shoot even more.
"Obviously, (he's) getting numbers a little better, starting to feel a little more comfortable," Weber said. "He's still — gosh, as he's got open shots he's got to take them and let the game come to him."
Thomas Gipson added 11 points for the Wildcats (6-1), who led 36-20 at halftime and scored the first seven points of the second half. McGruder hit four free throws after drives to the basket and Will Spradling made a 3-pointer.
Jodd Maxey scored 13 points for the Spartans (3-5), and Torrey Craig added 12 points. The Spartans struggled to contain Kansas State's forwards throughout the game. Later in the second half, Adrian Diaz added three baskets in quick succession to increase the Wildcats' advantage to 56-31 with 13:21 to play.
After a basket by McGruder gave Kansas State a 58-31 lead, big men D.J. Johnson, Nino Williams, Gipson and Diaz scored the next 14 points for the Wildcats. The Wildcats outrebounded the Spartans 45 to 37.