MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Kansas State is now clearly in the driver's seat in the Big 12.
Rodney McGruder scored 22 points, Angel Rodriguez added 20 and the Wildcats took sole possession of first place in the conference with a 79-70 victory over Iowa State on Saturday.
The Wildcats scored 27 points off turnovers, including 16 in the second half.
Both teams had 10 turnovers in the first 20 minutes, but the Cyclones gave it away 10 more times in the second half while Kansas State committed just four turnovers in that span.
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"Now you get those six opportunities without a turnover, you get a shot attempt," Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. "We kept talking about, how bad do you really want it? Do you really want to compete for a title? And those are the plays you have to make -- the tip-outs, the loose balls, the dive-on-the-floors."
Monday's matchup between Kansas State and No. 5 Kansas loomed larger than ever as the Wildcats moved into first place after the Jayhawks lost at Oklahoma earlier in the day.
"It's a long way to go," Weber said. "It's great to be in first place now. Right now it's fun. It's great for the kids. I told them enjoy it."
Korie Lucious led the Cyclones (16-7, 6-4) with 16 points and reserve Tyrus McGee had 15.
The Wildcats (19-4, 8-2) held a slim 33-32 lead at the break in a game that remained close most of the way.
After Ejim reversed Kansas State's halftime lead, McGruder scored on a slashing layup and drew a foul against Lucious. With three fouls, Lucious - who led Iowa State with 10 points in the first half - went to the bench and did not score again until only 1:33 remained in the game.
A bucket by Thomas Gipson gave Kansas State a 38-34 lead before Georges Niang and Will Clyburn each hit a bucket to give Iowa State a 39-38 lead.
An 8-0 spurt that included a 3 by Shane Southwell, free throws by Gipson and a 3 by Will Spradling put the Wildcats in front 46-39.
The breathing room did not last long.
The gap narrowed again when McGee hit a pair of baskets to bring the Cyclones within 46-44, and after Rodriguez and Gipson scored for the Wildcats, McGee hit a pair of 3s.
"It was a high-level game between two very good teams," Weber said. "We got off to a great start, and they came back, and then we had to grind it out."
"We just told them at halftime, we've got to take a deep breath, calm down, have discipline, do the things we always do and execute and then make plays," he added.
With the game tied at 50, Martavious Irving responded with his first 3 of the game, kicking off a 15-5 run for the Wildcats. McGruder slashed to the rim, Irving hit another 3 and then McGruder nailed a 3 of his own.
With 9:10 remaining, Kansas State led 61-52. In response to a pair of Iowa State baskets, Gipson and Rodriguez both scored and put the Wildcats up 65-55 -- the first double-digit lead of the game.
From there, Kansas State began to pull away.
A 3 by Rodriguez and a three-point play by Gipson put the Wildcats up 71-57 with 4:53 to play. Consecutive 3s by Lucious pulled the Cyclones within seven with under a minute to play, but Iowa State could not stop Kansas State from scoring.
"Everybody's talking about, `You guys are in first place,' and all that, but we're pretty much halfway through the Big 12, so there's a lot of games left," Rodriguez said. "Does it feel good? Yeah. But we can't settle."
The final score reflected how the game began, as the Wildcats leapt out to an early 11-2 lead. After a Kansas State turnover, Chris Babb sank an open 3, bringing Iowa State within 11-5.
A three-point play by Ejim a few possessions later cut the deficit to 16-10. After Gipson made one of two free throws, Iowa State kicked into high gear. Living up to their identity as a 3-point shooting team, the Cyclones went on a 16-2 tear that began with a 3 by Lucious. After he knocked down a pair of free throws, three more 3s gave the Cyclones a 26-19 lead with 7:02 to go before halftime.
The Wildcats responded with a 9-0 run of their own. McGruder and Southwell each hit a 3-pointer to bring Kansas State within 28-25. A slashing layup in transition by Rodriguez made it a one-point game. A pair of free throws by Irving gave the Wildcats the lead once again, 29-28.
Kansas State went up by four after a tip-in by Southwell, but Iowa State scored back-to-back baskets, and the Cyclones led 32-31. A layup rolled in for Irving and gave the Wildcats a one-point lead at halftime.
"That's not a good team," Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said. "That's a great team."