Updated at: 12/29/2012 7:37 PM
By DAVE SKRETTA
(AP) MANHATTAN, Kan. - Rodney McGruder scored 17 points, Thomas Gipson had 13 points and six rebounds and No. 25 Kansas State struggled to a 52-44 victory over Missouri-Kansas City on Saturday night.
Playing without guards Angel Rodriguez and Martavious Irving due to injuries, the Wildcats (10-2) shot just 32 percent from the field and went 2 of 10 from beyond the arc in their first game since beating then-No. 8 Florida on a neutral floor.
They certainly looked nothing like the team that beat the Gators last weekend.
Fred Chatmon had nine points and 16 rebounds for the `Roos (4-9), who were within 40-36 with 3:11 remaining before Nino Williams’ three-point play gave the Wildcats some breathing room.
McGruder’s soft floater in the lane moments later helped put the game away.
Thomas Staton finished with 13 points for the `Roos, who have lost five straight, including games against Iowa State and then-No. 5 Louisville. Kansas City remained winless in 17 games against teams ranked in the Top 25, including three defeats this season.
Kansas State coach Bruce Weber was forced to get creative with his lineup because of the injuries to Rodriguez (foot) and Irving (ankle).
Williams had eight points and 13 rebounds in extended minutes, and Omari Lawrence also got plenty of court time as the Wildcats covered up the ineffective play of Jordan Henriquez. The 7-footer had no points and just three rebounds while committing three fouls in 12 minutes.
The Wildcats looked as though they’d have no trouble early on.
Kansas State showed the same kind of tenacious defense that it displayed against the Gators, forcing the `Roos into turnovers on four of their first five possessions. Missouri-Kansas City didn’t hit a field goal inside the arc until the 13:12 mark as the Wildcats built a 20-9 lead.
That’s when Kansas State suddenly went cold, converting just two field goals the rest of the half and allowing Kansas City to get back in the game.
Chatmon had 10 first-half rebounds for the `Roos, and his two putbacks late in the half allowed Kansas City to cut into the lead. Staton’s 3-pointer with just over a minute left helped to trim the Wildcats’ advantage to just 25-21 at the break.
Kansas City kept hanging around early in the second half, too.
After a basket by McGruder with 12:59 left gave the Wildcats a 36-29 lead, they failed to score on their next six possessions, turning it over three times. That allowed the `Roos to score five quick points and trim the lead to 36-34, the closest they’d been since the opening minute.
Will Spradling finally managed to get something going for Kansas State, driving down the right side of the lane and taking advantage of a nice pick by Gipson for an easy layup.
Williams’ three-point play and McGruder’s floater in the lane allowed Kansas State to start getting comfortable, and Williams’ driving basket with 1:38 to go ended the `Roos’ upset bid.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)