Rodney McGruder was perfect from the field in the first half of the 2011 Diamond Head Classic and finished business in the second half leading the Kansas State Wildcats (10-1, 0-0) to an impressive 77-60 victory over the Long Beach State 49ers (7-6, 0-0). McGruder finished with a career-high 28 points and six rebounds on 10-of-11 (90%) shooting from the field.
The junior wing came into the season as Kansas State’s best player and the first-option on the offensive end. This season, he hasn’t been disappointing but hasn’t lived up to the expectations mounted on him before the season began.
This tournament was a breakout scene for his game and you can tell that his confidence has consistently improved. So much that he was named to the Diamond Head Classic all-tournament team as well as being nabbed the tournament MVP.
Over the course of the tournament, McGruder has averaged 15 points and six rebounds per game.
Will Spradling, the sophomore guard, also showed up big-time in the tournament final. Spradling finished with 17 points and chipped in two assist and two rebounds. Most importantly, Spradling managed the game well down the stretch and his efforts played a huge part in the Wildcats victory.
Senior Jamar Samuels rounded out the players in double-figures for the Wildcats in the championship game. Samuels, who made the Diamond Head Classic all-tournament team, finished with 11 points, eight rebounds, four assist and two blocks.
The Wildcats win the Diamond Head Classic after defeating Southern Illinois in the first round, holding UTEP off in the second and bouncing Long Beach State in the finals.
The Wildcats have won their first 10-of-11 games and go into conference play stronger than ever. Not only will this tournament see Kansas State walk away victorious but also with a great deal of confidence and belief.
The Wildcats fought hard in each of the final two games after holding big leagues. Both UTEP and Long Beach State made formidable runs to scare the Wildcats but with the point guard play of Spradling and freshman Angel Rodriguez, the Wildcats proved that they were the better team.
More importantly, I thought the guards did a good job of taking car of the ball. In the last two crucial games, the guards took care of the ball and was efficient down-the-stretch. The Wildcats averaged around 13 assist per game on a averaged of 26 made field goals, which meant half of the Wildcats baskets came from assist. That is a telling stat and a good one to look at as an indicator of great guard play.
In particular, I loved the coming out party for freshman Rodriguez. The freshman was non-existent in the final game but without him, the Wildcats wouldn’t be the Diamond Head Classic Champs. In the first game, Rodriguez made 5-0f-6 (83%) from three and finished with 17 points and three rebounds. In the second game, the freshman posted 16 points and four assist, including a clutch three-point shot when UTEP was cutting the lead down.
Overall, the Wildcats fought hard and came away with the Diamond Head Classic. McGruder, Rodriguez, Samuels, and Spradling, all had fabulous tournaments for the ‘Cats. Kansas State Men’s Basketball team delivered a good Christmas present to all theWildcat fans. The Wildcats return home to face off against the Howard Bisons (4-9, 1-1) on New Years Day at 2 PM ET.