MANHATTAN — Kansas State never really expected to play Alabama-Huntsville on Tuesday night.
New coach Bruce Weber sent his team home following a victory over Lamar the previous night, roughly at halftime of the Division II school’s game against North Texas. When the Chargers upset the Mean Green, it left the Wildcats scrambling to put together a game plan.
Turns out they didn’t need one.
Shane Southwell had 16 points to lead four players in double-figure scoring, and Kansas State rolled over Alabama-Huntsville 87-26 to reach the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off.
The 61-point margin of victory matched a school record set in 1991.
“We didn’t really get together until about 2:30 this afternoon,” Weber said. “The players did a good job. We spent about an hour and a half learning how to guard them.”
It looked like they had spent months.
Kansas State (3-0) raced out to a 19-2 lead over Alabama-Huntsville (2-1), stretched it to 47-11 by the break, and pushed the advantage to 50 by midway through the second half before coasting down the stretch to its 38th consecutive non-conference win at Bramlage Coliseum.
The Chargers, who upset North Texas the previous night for arguably the biggest win in school history, didn’t have any player score more than four points. They committed 14 turnovers, shot 16.4 percent from the field and were a ghastly 3 of 33 from beyond the 3-point arc.
Alabama-Huntsville barely eclipsed the record for fewest points by an opponent inside Kansas State’s on-campus arena. Savannah State scored 25 points during the 2008 season.
“Obviously it was the perfect storm tonight. We hit a buzz-saw in every way,” Alabama-Huntsville coach Lennie Acuff said. “It was what I was concerned about coming in.”
Rodney McGruder finished with 11 points for the Wildcats. Angel Rodriguez and Will Spradling each had 10, as all 13 players who took the floor for Kansas State managed to score.
“Our depth is something we can hang our hats on,” Weber said.
The Wildcats will play Delaware on Nov. 21 at Madison Square Garden for a spot in the NIT Season Tip-Off title game. The Blue Hens beats Virginia earlier in the night.
“My first time going there. Always wanted to go, never really had the opportunity,” Rodriguez said. “It’s going to be an unbelievable opportunity to play in Madison Square Garden.”
Kansas State got on a roll early Tuesday night and never let up.
Nino Williams scored the first basket after a turnover by the Chargers, Rodriguez hit a 3-pointer and McGruder got into the act with his first basket before Jamie Smith finally got Alabama-Huntsville on the board with 16:46 remaining in the first half.
It was the last field goal the Chargers would score for nearly 9 minutes.
Rodriguez curled in two more 3-pointers, Thomas Gipson added a couple of baskets in the paint, and the lead had stretched to 19-2 as the game approached the midway point of the half.
“We had no legs,” Acuff said. “I could tell. We were just a step late to everything.”
Dedrick Wayne’s two free throws slowed the bleeding, but Rodriguez answered with two of his own before Kansas State turned back-to-back turnovers by Smith into easy layups.
The Wildcats extended the lead to 25-4 before Andrew Donovan finally got another field goal to go for Alabama-Huntsville. It was 36-6 by the time the Chargers got another one, on a 3-pointer by Garrett Cosgrove, and 47-9 when Southwell knocked down a jumper from the top of the key.
Weber played a dozen players in the first half, and really began to substitute liberally in the second half, allowing several bench players to get precious minutes.
“We do some things well. That’s what I’ve talked about the whole time: You have to figure out a team identity,” Weber said. “We play hard. We defend, we rebound, and now I think you can add to it that we have pretty good depth.”
Kansas State 87, Ala.-Huntsville 26
Campbell 1-4 0-0 3, Blasi 2-4 0-0 4, Smith 2-12 0-0 4, Baldwin 0-7 1-2 1, Mack 1-4 0-0 3, Wester 0-0 0-0 0, Cosgrove 1-8 0-0 3, Palmer 0-1 2-2 2, Donovan 1-5 0-0 2, Gardner 0-4 0-0 0, Chapman 0-1 0-1 0, Duke 0-0 0-0 0, Dedrick 1-5 2-2 4, Carr 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 9-55 5-7 26.
KANSAS ST. (3-0)
Williams 1-2 2-2 4, Henriquez 4-7 0-2 8, Rodriguez 3-8 2-2 10, McGruder 3-6 5-6 11, Spradling 4-6 0-0 10, Southwell 6-8 0-0 16, Irving 1-3 0-0 3, Lawrence 2-4 0-0 4, Diaz 2-5 0-2 4, Schultz 1-1 0-0 2, Gipson 3-5 0-0 6, Orris 1-1 0-0 2, Johnson 3-5 1-1 7. Totals 34-61 10-15 87.
Halftime — Kansas State 47, Ala.-Huntsville 11. Three-point goals — Ala.-Huntsville 3-33 (Campbell 1-4, Mack 1-4, Cosgrove 1-6, Dedrick 0-2, Baldwin 0-2, Donovan 0-3, Gardner 0-3, Smith 0-9), Kansas State 9-19 (Southwell 4-5, Spradling 2-4, Rodriguez 2-6, Irving 1-1, Lawrence 0-1, McGruder 0-2). Rebounds — Ala.-Huntsville 22 (Blasi, Cosgrove, Smith 4), Kansas State 55 (Southwell 9). Assists — Ala.-Huntsville 6 (Smith 5), Kansas State 17 (Rodriguez 6). Total fouls — Ala.-Huntsville 12, Kansas State 14.