By Ashley Dunkak
The Associated Press
MANHATTAN, Kan. — Kansas State is now clearly in the driver’s seat in the Big 12.
Rodney McGruder scored 22 points, Angel Rodriguez added 20 and the Wildcats took sole possession of first place in the conference with a 79-70 victory over Iowa State on Saturday.
The Wildcats scored 27 points off turnovers, including 16 in the second half.
Both teams had 10 turnovers in the first 20 minutes, but the Cyclones gave it away 10 more times in the second half while Kansas State committed just four turnovers in that span.
“Now you get those six opportunities without a turnover, you get a shot attempt,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. “We kept talking about, how bad do you really want it? Do you really want to compete for a title? And those are the plays you have to make — the tip-outs, the loose balls, the dive-on-the-floors.”
Monday’s matchup between Kansas State and No. 5 Kansas loomed larger than ever as the Wildcats moved into first place after the Jayhawks lost at Oklahoma earlier in the day.
“It’s a long way to go,” Weber said. “It’s great to be in first place now. Right now it’s fun. It’s great for the kids. I told them enjoy it.”
Korie Lucious led the Cyclones (16-7, 6-4) with 16 points and reserve Tyrus McGee had 15.
The Wildcats (19-4, 8-2) held a slim 33-32 lead at the break in a game that remained close most of the way.
After Ejim reversed Kansas State’s halftime lead, McGruder scored on a slashing layup and drew a foul against Lucious. With three fouls, Lucious — who led Iowa State with 10 points in the first half — went to the bench and did not score again until only 1:33 remained in the game.
A bucket by Thomas Gipson gave Kansas State a 38-34 lead before Georges Niang and Will Clyburn each hit a bucket to give Iowa State a 39-38 lead.
An 8-0 spurt that included a 3 by Shane Southwell, free throws by Gipson and a 3 by Will Spradling put the Wildcats in front 46-39.
The gap narrowed again when McGee hit a pair of baskets to bring the Cyclones within 46-44, and after Rodriguez and Gipson scored for the Wildcats, McGee hit a pair of 3s.
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