After relatively narrow victories on Thursday, Kansas State and Syracuse will be matched in an 11:15 (central time) tipoff Saturday morning at the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pa. The matchup will feature the aggressive nature of KSU's man defense, against the aggressive nature of Syracuse's zone defense.

In the words of Kansas State coach Frank Martin, the Wildcats are after six "one-game winning streaks."

The first of those was secured on Thursday with a 70-64 victory over Southern Mississippi, while 32-2 Syracuse struggled to get by North Carolina-Ashville, 72-65.

To get the next victory, K-State must solve the puzzle of Syracuse's zone defense that features 6-foot-5 guards, plus 6-10 folks inside.

"It makes it hard to pass around when you're as long as they are," said Martin. "People say it's a 2-3 zone, but really it's a 2-2-1."

Whether a 2-2-1, as Martin says, or the 2-3 that the normal fan sees, it's worked. Syracuse is allowing 60.5 points per game on 38 percent shooting. Ten times the Orangemen have allowed teams to score no more than 55 points.

Of the difference between the zones of Baylor and Syracuse, Wildcat Shane Southwell said, "Their backlines are very big, but Baylor's guards are pretty quick, where the Syracuse guards are bigger, stronger, and with a higher basketball IQ."

"Baylor's zone was more passive," said Jordan Henriquez. "Syracuse is a lot more aggressive. I think they lead the country in steals."

Rodney McGruder added, "Syracuse really gets out and pressures the wings. Baylor is more back a little bit. It all comes down to taking the shots you're given and not forcing things."

Overall, McGruder said the game will come down to "getting 50-50 balls, and whichever team wants it the most. We have to play defense and crash the boards."

The story of the week has been the suspension of Syracuse's 7-foot center Fab Melo for eligibility issues. Without the Big East's Defensive Player of the Year, the Orangemen lost to Notre Dame, and narrowly defeated Cincinnati and West Virginia during an earlier suspension at mid-year.

Without him, SU teammate Scoop Jardine admitted, "We're a different team. He was there to change shots, or block shots, or take charges. He was our presence so we could be aggressive on top." In other words, Melo was to Syracuse what Jordan Henriquez is to K-State.


It went unnoticed Thursday, but the six blocked shots by Jordan Henriquez pushed his season total to 77, which moved him to the single-season record breaking the mark of Curtis Kelly set last year.

It was also a record for any Wildcat in a single NCAA Tournament game. Henriquez's career total is now 146, which broke the career mark of Manny Dies (121) earlier in the year.

Rodney McGruder's career point total is now 1,014, which puts him 22nd in K-State history.

Next in line are Lance Harris (1,021), Curtis Redding (1,030), Ernie Kusyner (1,045) and Lon Kruger (1,063).

McGruder will match talents with a former high school (Archbishop Carroll High School) and D.C. Assault AAU teammate in Syracuse's Kris Joseph.

On McGruder, Joseph said, "Rodney has always played much bigger than he is. He can shoot the 3-pointer, but he's more of an aggressive mid-range guy, who plays hard on both ends of the floor. He likes a challenge. He'll be up for this game."

By the way, McGruder's 30 points broke the scoring record for the two-year-old CONSOL Energy Center. It marked only the eighth time that a K-State player has scored at least 30 points in an NCAA game.

Teammate Victor Ojeleye is one who is not surprised at McGruder's emergence into a 15.9-point per game scorer, which is only two buckets behind what Jacob Pullen averaged last year.

"I've seen him work. I remember last summer he's be doing ball-handling drills early in the morning and going to the gym at 6:30 in the morning to shoot," said Ojeleye. "He's worked to be a great player and he's become a great player. He plays with the heart of a champion."


With a victory, K-State goes to Boston for a game against the winner of Vanderbilt and Wisconsin.

It's Wisconsin that has ended two of KSU's last three trips into the NCAA Tournament: 70-65 in 2011, and 72-55 in 2008.

With a loss, K-State ends its season.

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