By Paulina Pengelley
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In a game where Kansas State looked completely discombobulated the first half and stellar the second, free throws became the enemy as the Wildcats take an early exit in the NCAA tournament, falling 63-61 to the LaSalle Explorers.
The first half was all LaSalle as they built up a 19 point lead over Kansas State with six minutes left. Shooting just 37 percent from the field, the Wildcats could not find an answer to the Explorers defense as LaSalle went into halftime with an 18 point lead.
But the Wildcats found their rhythm the second half, holding the Explorers scoreless for the first five minutes.
“We didn’t get off to a great start,” said Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber. “I challenged them at halftime to have some emotion, to compete.”
The Wildcats rose to the challenge. Shooting 46 percent from the field, Kansas State fought their way back into the game, taking their first lead of the game at the 7:09 mark with a jump shot by senior guard Rodney McGruder, making the score 57-56.
But free throws hurt the Wildcats, connecting on only 9 of their 17 attempts, thirteen of them coming in the second half.
“We didn’t really make enough free throws down the stretch,” said Kansas State forward Jordan Henriquez. “They’re the ones that came out with the win in the outcome.”
Henriquez and Junior guard Shane Southwell combined for 34 points for the Wildcats. McGruder finished with 13 points and six rebounds.
LaSalle will move on to play the region’s No. 12 seeded Ole Miss Running Rebels on Sunday at the Sprint Center.