Rodney McGruder is settling into first-year coach Bruce Weber's offensive scheme, and that's a big reason Kansas State is on the verge of its longest winning streak in more than three years.
Oklahoma is looking to continue its own lengthy run.
McGruder tries for another strong offensive showing as the No. 16 Wildcats seek an eighth straight victory Saturday against the Sooners.
McGruder leads Kansas State (14-2, 3-0 Big 12) with 15.3 points per game, slightly lower than his career-high average of 15.8 from last season.
The senior guard initially struggled to learn Weber's offense, averaging 11.9 points on 37.8 percent shooting - 7 of 30 from 3-point range - over the first nine games of the season. But the learning curve seems to be over, with McGruder getting 19.6 points per contest while hitting 50.0 percent from the field - 15 of 36 from beyond the arc - to spark the Wildcats' seven-game winning streak.
"I'm able to make shots. It's a lot of fun," McGruder said. "There's a lot of moving and screening. There are no real set plays, so it's hard to learn."
His production was vital again Wednesday, when he scored 21 points on 9-of-15 shooting. He was the only Kansas State player in double figures in a 67-54 win at TCU.
The competition is about to get much stiffer. After facing the Sooners (12-3, 3-0), the Wildcats will host fourth-ranked Kansas on Tuesday.
They lost both matchups with Oklahoma last season, falling 63-60 in Manhattan on Jan. 28 despite McGruder's 19 points. Kansas State, though, has won all 10 home games this season by an average of 20.5 points.
The Wildcats haven't won eight straight overall since reeling off 10 in a row Nov. 22, 2009-Jan. 3, 2010.
"They are playing very well," said Sooners coach Lon Kruger, a former player and coach for Kansas State. "They have a great atmosphere. Coach Weber has done a great job with the group. We are going to have to continue to play better."
Oklahoma has a chance at its first six-game winning streak since Nov. 28-Dec. 19, 2009, and the team feels it has something to prove.
"Every game is big. For us especially because we still have a lot to prove," forward Romero Osby said. "We need to continue to build on our habits and get better as a team. Every win is big for us; especially a Big 12 win and to be 3-0 in the conference. We just want to keep moving forward and keep getting better."
They seemed to do that Wednesday, beating Texas Tech 81-63 behind one of their best shooting performances of the season at 47.5 percent from the field.
Osby had 17 points, and he's averaging 18.3 on 57.6 percent shooting in Big 12 play. He wasn't nearly that effective at Kansas State last January, making 2 of 9 from the floor to finish with nine points after scoring 18 in an 82-73 home win Jan. 14, 2012.
Steven Pledger totaled 48 points in those two meetings, getting 30 in Manhattan. The senior guard, however, enters this matchup averaging just 11.5 points on 39.6 percent shooting, both well below his 2011-12 marks.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved