The Kansas State men’s basketball team jumped out to a big lead in the first quarter, but Brazil’s second-best professional team showed their experience in rallying back to take an 81-67 victory at Associacao Esportiva Sao Jose on Friday afternoon.
Sao Jose dos Campos is regarded as one of the top professional teams in the National Brazilian Basketball League (NBB), finishing as the national runner-up early last month. They have been one of the Top 5 teams in Brazil for the last five years and one of the Top 3 in Sao Paulo with several players on the Brazilian National Team.
“We knew today was going to be a difficult task,” said first-year head coach Bruce Weber. “They were the national runner-up in the National Brazilian Basketball League, even though they were missing a few key players, so we knew it was going to be a tough first outing. I thought we got off to a great start, maybe caught them off guard a bit, and showed great energy. However, like typical international basketball, they spread you out and shoot the ball well from 3-point range, which then opens up the middle for easy shots. This is all new for our team and a great learning experience.”
K-State jumped out to a 12-2 lead in the first quarter en route to a 22-10 advantage after the first quarter. Eight different Wildcats scored in the opening quarter, including five points from sophomore Angel Rodriguez. However, Sao Jose slowly chipped away at the lead, using a late 8-0 run to close to within 33-32 at the half. The Wildcats scored just 11 points in the second quarter with a team-high four by sophomore Nino Williams.
Sao Jose grabbed its first lead, 36-35, on the first of three consecutive 3-pointers with 7:56 left in the third quarter. Down 42-38, K-State was able to rally with nine straight points, including five in a row by junior Will Spradling, to take a 47-42 with four minutes to play. However, Sao Jose ended the quarter on a 12-2 run to take a 54-51 lead into the final quarter. The run continued in the fourth quarter with Sao Jose scoring 13 of the first 15 points to take its largest lead at 67-53. The Wildcats would get no closer than 10 points the rest of the way.
K-State shot 36.4 percent from the field (24-of-66), including just 27.3 percent (6-of-22) from 3-point range, to go with 40 rebounds, 13 assists, 11 steals and four blocks. However, the squad committed 17 turnovers. A bright spot was from the free throw line, where the Wildcats converted on 13-of-14 attempts.
Rodriguez and Williams led the way for K-State with 15 and 11 points, respectively. Rodriguez connected on 4-of-9 from the field, including 2-of-5 from 3-point range, to go with a team-best six assists and four rebounds, while Williams added 11 points on 4-of-6 field goals with seven rebounds and two steals. Senior Jordan Henriquez notched a team- best nine rebounds, including five defensive boards, to go with eight points, one assist and one block. Fellow senior Rodney McGruder chipped in seven points and five rebounds.
“I think Angel played well,” said Weber. “In the last five practices, he has really started to develop into a true point guard and really get a good feel for the game.”
K-State returns to action on Saturday afternoon, as the Wildcats play Mogi Das Cruzes Club at 3 p.m. CT. Mogi Das Cruzes is entering the National Brazilian Basketball League in 2012-13 after playing in the junior level.