MANHATTAN, Kan. – If you only watched Kansas State play in Bramlage Coliseum on this particular Saturday, you would be shocked to know that before this game the Wildcats had won just four of eight there this season. Kansas State pummeled Oklahoma State 77-58 and ended the regular season on the strongest possible note.
Rodney McGruder led the Wildcats in scoring yet again with 24 points, but seniors Jamar Samuels and Victor Ojeleye still earned their Senior Day spotlight, both performing singularly well in their final game in the Octagon of Doom.
Ojeleye, a two-time captain and Academic All-American, started the game for the first time and immediately made his presence known by taking a charge. He also scored the team’s first basket. He finished with two points, two rebounds and some significant defense in 16 minutes on the floor.
Samuels also made his last home game a memorable one, earning his 13th double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Chosen to shoot free throws in place of Jordan Henriquez when the junior got knocked in the mouth, Samuels was perfect from the charity stripe in the game. He also had a steal.
"He’s been zoned in," coach Frank Martin said. "You have different relationships with every player you coach, and you have different experiences with them, and you take different paths with them … I don’t think I’ve ever been as proud of somebody for the maturity and growth that he has displayed over the last year."
Senior Day at Bramlage began with recognition of Victor Ojeleye and Jamar Samuels. Ojeleye walked with his mom, giving her a big hug before she wiped the tears from his face. Samuels appeared emotional as well, walking with Frank Martin’s wife Anya because his mom’s flight was delayed. His family arrived midway through the game and received a standing ovation at halftime.
The Wildcats led by seven points at the break, but they simply trampled the Cowboys coming out of halftime. After Keiton Page hit a 3-pointer, Kansas State went on a 14-0 run. Samuels sparked it with a basket, and McGruder went off for 8 straight points. Samuels scored again, and Henriquez followed his example with a layup of his own. The Wildcats led 54-36 with 15:22 remaining in the game.
6-foot-11, 270-pound junior Philip Jurick had gone down early in the first half and would never return. While Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford gave credit to Kansas State for its run at the beginning of the second half, he also acknowledged that Jurick's injury had an impact.
"They did a good job of coming out the first two or three minutes and making a statement," Ford said. "We didn’t respond. Our guys were down. The guys didn’t realize the extent of Philip’s injury, and once they realized that, they were down."
C.J. Guerrero scored two straight to pull the Cowboys within 54-40, but Henriquez and McGruder quickly restored the Kansas State lead to 18 points with 11 minutes to play.
Five minutes later, the score was just slightly different, but the point spread was the same. Kansas State led 68-50 thanks to a continued effort by Samuels, who missed on all four of his attempted 3-pointers in the game but utilized the shot fake and made some impressive mid-range shots.
The crowning moment for the senior, though, came when he swished a fadeaway mid-range jumper to beat the shot clock, get fouled and make the ensuing free throw. Having given the Wildcats a 77-54 lead with 2:32 remaining, he took a seat on the bench for the last time in Bramlage.
"I watch a lot of NBA, and that’s what they do, so I just jumped into [the defender], and the ball went in," Samuels said with a grin.
Page hit four 3-pointers in the first half to keep the Cowboys in the game early, and Guerrero picked up where he left off, scoring seven of the team’s last 11 points.
For the Wildcats, Henriquez dominated the paint, especially after freshman Marek Soucek replaced the injured Jurick. McGruder hit all four of his shots from the floor, including two 3-pointers. Henriquez scored 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting and grabbed 8 rebounds in yet another powerful performance.
Page played all 40 minutes and finished with 22 points and 5 rebounds. His only real help in scoring came from Guerrero, who scored 15.
*I first posted this on my blog, fabuloussportsbabe.wordpress.com.*