Nov. 21, 2012
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NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. - Junior Will Spradling knocked down four free throws in the waning seconds of the game, as Kansas State held off a late charge from Delaware for a 66-63 win on Wednesday night in the NIT Season Tip-Off semifinals at Madison Square Garden.
The win was the first for the Wildcats in five tries at the world's most famous arena, a streak which dated back to the original Garden and the 1948 Final Four against Holy Cross.
K-State will now face either No. 4 Michigan or Pittsburgh in the NIT Season Tip-Off Championship game on Friday at 3:30 p.m. CT on ESPNU. The Wildcats will be looking to capture an in-season tournament for the second consecutive season after winning the 2011 Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic.
Delaware, which was picked second in the preseason Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) poll, proved tough and never backed down from the deeper K-State team. The Wildcats seemed to be pulling away down the stretch, building as much as an 11-point lead with just under eight minutes to play. However, the Blue Hens slowly chipped away at the deficit, closing to within 60-58 on junior Devon Saddler's second 3-pointer with 1:23 to play. Saddler led all scorers with a career-best 32 points.
The Blue Hens would close to within a basket on two more occasions, but each time the Wildcats were able to get the ball to their best free throw shooter, Spradling, who is now 10-of-10 from the line on the season. He knocked down a pair to give the squad a 64-60 lead with 22 seconds then made it 66-62 on another pair with 10 seconds remaining. Saddler was fouled on a 3-point shot by Rodriguez with one second left on the clock, but he made just one free throw and sophomore Nino Williams was able to corral the intention miss to clinch the victory.
K-State was able to take a 27-25 lead into the half, as junior Shane Southwell's jumper rolled around the rim before falling in as the clock expired. Despite shooting a season-low 30.3 percent from the field, the Wildcats led by as many as seven points in the half, before the Blue Hens slowly chipped away and tying it at 25-all with 42 seconds left. Southwell finished the game with eight points, two rebounds and two assists (zero turnovers) in 13 minutes.
Spradling, along with sophomores Angel Rodriguez and Thomas Gipson, each chipped in 12 points to pace the Wildcats. Spradling played well in his first appearance at Madison Square Garden, as the Overland Park, Kan., native added seven assists (to zero turnovers), a career-best six rebounds and two steals in 33 minutes of action. Rodriguez, who went 6-of-7 from the free throw line, also posted five assists and four rebounds in 33 minutes. Gipson tied Spradling with a team-high six rebounds.
Saddler and senior forward Jamelle Hagins combined for 44 of Delaware's 63 points. Saddler connected on 12-of-22 field goals, including 3-of-5 from 3-point range. Hagins, who had a double-double at halftime, finished the game with 12 points and a game-high 15 rebounds. No other Blue Hen had more than five points, as their five starters combined for 156 minutes.
K-State shot a near season-low 38.5 percent from the field, including 33.3 percent from 3-point range, but was a stellar 85.7 percent (12-of-14) from the free throw line. Delaware became the first Wildcat opponent to shoot above 40 percent from the field, connected on an opponent-high 44.4 percent of its field goals, but was just 61.1 percent (11-of-18) from the free throw line. K-State held a 39-34 edge on the glass, but was out-scored 32-28 in the paint for the first time this season.