Friday, November 23, 2012 8:53 pm
Kansas State falls to No. 4 Michigan in NIT, 71-57
By RICK FREEMANAP Sports Writer
Kansas State fought back in the first half after a scoreless streak to start the game. But the Wildcats began the second half with another one and never got within shouting distance of the Wolverines again in a 71-57 loss in the final of NIT Season Tipoff on Friday night.
"They are the best in transition," Wildcats coach Bruce Weber said. "We spotted them six to start and spotted them eight or so the second half and that's the game and you're just playing catch-up."
Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 23 points for the Wolverines before he left after he was kneed in the head late in the game. Glenn Robinson III had 12 rebounds, and Trey Burke and Jon Horford had 10 points apiece.
Rodney McGruder had 16 points and seven rebounds, and Angel Rodriguez scored 10 for Kansas State (5-1).
"It was different from everyone we faced so far. They switched a lot of screens, and we really haven't dealt with that thus far," McGruder said. "But we missed a lot of shots we could have made."
The Wildcats made 36.7 percent of their shots from the floor, including less than 29 percent in the first half. And they were outrebounded, too.
"Rebounding has been our strength, and they ended up punking us on the boards 42-30," Weber said. "That's supposed to be our strength, and they made it their strength this game."
In its semifinal, Kansas State overcame a pesky Delaware team that should contend in the Colonial Athletic Association - a mid-major league that had Final Four teams in 2006 and 2011.
But Michigan was several notches above the Blue Hens and the Wildcats didn't have much of an answer. They got off to a slow start in each half, and spent most of their effort trying to chip away at Michigan's lead.
"You spot them six (points) to start the game, you spot them eight in the second half, and now you - I think then we doubted a little bit," Weber said. "I think we've got a chance to be good, we're just going to have to figure it out."
The Wildcats should be favored in their next four games before they face No. 7 Florida on Dec. 22. They open the Big 12 season Jan. 5 against Oklahoma State.
Hardaway made 10 of 15 shots from the field before he was hurt with about four minutes left. He returned to the bench in time to celebrate with the rest of his team.
Hardaway wasn't available to talk to reporters, but athletic trainer John DoRosario said the junior passed his concussion tests and was cleared to fly home. The Wolverines' next game is Tuesday against No. 16 North Carolina State.
Michigan (5-0) won the tournament, previously known as the Preseason NIT, for the first time. It was the Wolverines' first title in a significant preseason tournament since the 1997-98 season, when they beat Syracuse to win the Puerto Rico Holiday Classic.
The Wolverines struggled at the end of the first half against Kansas State while Burke and Jordan Morgan sat on the bench in foul trouble. But Hardaway took over early in the second half.
He made four baskets in the first eight minutes as Michigan got out to a 49-30 lead. At one point, he showcased a crossover of the sort that made his father famous, juking Kansas State's Will Spradling to give himself a wide open shot that he knocked down to wild cheering just as the crowd at Madison Square Garden finished gasping at the move.
That basket made it 43-27, and Michigan kept up the pressure, taking a 21-point lead with a little over 10 minutes to play.
From there, it was mostly a formality.
"They ran their plays the whole game, nothing changed," Rodriguez said. "We took bad shots at the beginning of the second half, and that's when they made the run."