MANHATTAN, Kan. — The way Will Spradling had been shooting lately, the Kansas State guard had little reason walking into Bramlage Coliseum to think he was going to have a big game.
Then he started draining 3-pointers during the shoot-around and his outlook brightened.
The sophomore wound up with a career high 19 points, and even the lone deep ball that he missed rimmed out. Angel Rodriguez added 13 points and the Wildcats rallied from a miserable first half for a confidence-building 64-53 victory Saturday.
"It felt good because I've really been in the gym working on my shot lately," Spradling said. "It was nice to see it pay off and get my confidence back."
The backcourt duo of Spradling and Rodriguez provided just enough offense to help the Wildcats (16-6, 5-5 Big 12) avoid their third consecutive loss.
"More than anything we want to win," Rodriguez said. "We lost two games, so I guess you could say there was a little pressure for us, but we responded in a good way."
The Wildcats improved to 21-3 in February over the past three-plus seasons, including a 12-1 mark at Bramlage Coliseum, which is fast becoming one of the league's most difficult venues.
The teams meet again in College Station later this month.
Texas A&M was forced to play again without Dash Harris and Khris Middleton. Harris missed his third game with a foot injury while Middleton was out for the fourth time with a knee injury.
"When they're not in the game, it's hard," said Elston Turner, who led the Aggies (12-10, 3-7) with 18 points. "On the road you have to play 40 minutes hard if you want to win."
Naji Hibbert finished with 14 points for the Aggies, but they also committed 19 turnovers and were beaten badly on the boards, which wiped out a good night shooting.
"They wore us down in the second half," Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said.
The first half was played at the pace of a broken-down jalopy.
It was 4-4 at the first media timeout. Texas A&M then embarked on a 12-2 run, fueled as much by Kansas State's inept offense as the Aggies' propensity for defense. Wildcat coach Frank Martin appeared downright forlorn sitting on the bench, never budging until he called for a timeout.
By that point, the Aggies led 16-6 with 12:03 left.
Kansas State got a good chunk of the deficit back coming out of the timeout. Thomas Gipson scored and was fouled, and even though he missed the free throw, the Wildcats got the offensive rebound. Spradling knocked down a 3 and was fouled, this time converting the and-one.
The six-point trip trimmed the lead in half. Spradling knocked down another 3 later to get within 19-17, and a dunk by Gipson off a feed from Rodney McGruder made it 25-24 at halftime.
The Big 12's top scoring defense finally cracked in the second half.
Gipson's answered a 3-pointer by Turner with a basket of his own, starting an 11-0 run for the Wildcats that turned the complexion of the game.
McGruder knocked down a 3 from the corner for his first field goal, giving Kansas State the lead. Martavious Irving added a short jumper for his first points moments later, and by the time Adrian Diaz made a pair of free throws, the Wildcats' lead had grown to 41-34.
Martin was anything but dour by then, motioning for the fans to get on their feet.
"Our guys, they were laying it on the line in the second half," he said. "I wanted that crowd to help our guys keep that energy."
They happily obliged as Rodriguez scored eight straight for Kansas State. On one series, the freshman followed his own missed 3 with a scooping layup, and then hit an off-balance jumper and was fouled, converting the free throw to give the Wildcats a 52-40 lead.
Turner led the Aggies on one last run, hitting back-to-back 3-pointers and scoring 10 points in a span of a couple minutes. But Daniel Alexander missed a pair of free throws for Texas A&M, and Kansas State coaxed the game to the finish.
"When things are difficult and you have to pull up your pants and go, you find out who you can trust and who you can go to," Martin said, "and that's what these guys did."