College Hoops Player of the Day for Wednesday, January 18, 2012
If you're going to compete in the rugged Big 12 conference, your team has to have a go-to guy who can score a load of points and keep your squad in the game.
For the Kansas State Wildcats, that would be junior shooting guard Rodney McGruder, who ripped the nylons for a career high 33 points, helping the Wildcats over a testy Texas team, 84-80, Wednesday night in Manhattan, Kansas.
McGruder's big night wasn't just all about shooting, though he was 11-for-17 from the field, including four 3-pointers and 7-for-10 from the foul line. The 6'4" McGruder was also hitting the boards with regularity, snatching eight rebounds (4 on the offensive end) and dishing a pair of assists.
The Wildcats, clinging to the #25 spot in the AP poll, needed the win badly, having lost three of their last four and falling to 1-3 in the conference. The victory improved their overall record to 13-4 and 2-3 inside the Big 12.
Texas, a talented, though not very deep team, fell to 2-3 in the conference and 12-6 for the season.
NOTABLE: There were a number of upsets in college hoops on Wednesday, including Cincinnati's 70-67 win over Connecticut on Sean Kilpatrick's clutch 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds left, and Nebraska's stunning upset of Indiana, 70-69, but the lesson of the night comes from the Pavilion in Philadelphia, where the struggling Villanova Wildcats (9-10) took advantage of 41 trips to the foul line to defeat 15-4 Seton Hall, 84-76.
Led by junior guard Maalik Wyans and freshman forward JayVaughn Pinkston, who scored 25 and 22, respectively (a career high for Pinkston), the Wildcats showed great form at the foul line, something a few of the top teams still need to work on before the pressure of tournament play in March. Wyans, hitting 89.7% of his foul shots this season, displayed textbook form, making 15 of 16 freebies, while Pinkston hit 13 of 17 from the stripe.
Seton Hall committed 27 fouls and went to the line themselves only 16 times, making 12, while the Wildcats, just 22 of 51 from the field, made 34 of 41 free throws. Practice, practice, practice makes perfect.