Kansas City, MO (Sports Network) - With their opponent for the second round of
the NCAA Tournament now identified, the Kansas State Wildcats prepare to take
on the La Salle Explorers in West Regional action at the Sprint Center in
Kansas City on Friday afternoon.
Led by head coach Bruce Weber, who took his Illinois team in 2005 to the title
game of the NCAA Tournament, the Wildcats are enjoying one of their most
successful campaigns in program history. The team delivered a school-record 25
victories during the regular season and is now 27-7 overall, which is second-
best behind only the 2009-10 squad which generated 29 wins.
The fourth-seeded Wildcats, winners of 12 of their last 15 outings overall,
they posted triumphs over Texas and Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Conference
Tournament in this very same venue just last week, before bowing to bitter
rival Kansas, 70-54, in the title game.
As for the 13th-seeded Explorers, winners of 21 games during the regular
season as a member of the Atlantic 10 Conference, their first trip to the NCAA
Tournament in more than two decades actually began on Wednesday night with an
80-71 victory over Boise State in first-round action in Dayton. Now 12-10 in
this event all-time, La Salle is heading back to the place where they won
their first and only national title, 59 years ago against Bradley in Kansas
Taking part in the NCAA Tournament for the 27th time in program history, the
Wildcats have an overall record of 33-30, but have yet to bring home the
title. The school has advanced to the Sweet 16 a total of 16 times, made it to
the Final Four on four occasions, and played in the championship game in 1951
when it bowed to mighty Kentucky (68-58) in Minneapolis.
With respect to an all-time series between these two squads, this is the
fourth meeting overall and the first since 1994. The Wildcats have an
unblemished record versus La Salle, with one of those three victories coming
in a 66-53 decision on St. Patrick's Day in 1988 during the NCAA Tournament as
The winner of this contest heads to the third round on Sunday to do battle
with the survivor of the Ole Miss/Wisconsin matchup.
Going up against Boise State for the first time on Wednesday night, the
Explorers were sparked by reserve Tyrone Garland and his 22 points on 9-of-11
shooting from the floor as he was one of four players in double figures for
the program. Ramon Galloway chipped in with another 21 points and Sam Mills
accounted for 15, as he sank all but one of his six 3-point attempts in the
contest. Jerrell Wright (13 points) was responsible for a team-best six
rebounds as the team cleared a mere 22 boards on the night, mainly because
they shot an outstanding 63.3 percent from the floor.
Now after 31 games, Galloway continues to lead the Explorers in scoring with
17.1 ppg, thanks in large part to his 40.5 percent accuracy from beyond the
arc. As a group, La Salle is averaging close to eight triples per game (239-
of-636), yet the perimeter defense for the program has allowed opponents to
make good on a total of just 129 3-point shots.
A candidate for the Naismith Player of the Year Award, the Wildcats get a lot
of their drive from Rodney McGruder who leads the team in scoring with 15.7
ppg and is also first on the unit with close to five and a half rebounds per
game. A member of the All-Big 12 First Team, McGruder is averaging more than
33 minutes per game as he shoots 44.7 percent from the floor for a squad that
has been beating opponents by an average of almost nine points per game. Angel
Rodriguez, named to both the All-Big 12 Second Team and the All-Big 12
Defensive Team, has scored in double figures in 13 consecutive games in order
to boost his overall average to 11.7 ppg, to go along with 5.3 apg which is
one of the top marks in the league.
Outside of McGruder and Rodriquez, the latter shooting only 36.7 percent from
the field in his 32 appearances, the Wildcats don't have another standout
performer who can carry this team on his back. Instead, K-State has a wealth
of complementary performers who are more than willing to fill a specific role
to keep this team moving forward.
The Sports Network