MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) -—When the 5-foot-11 Rodriguez is open on the perimeter, he's willing to shoot the 3. When he sees a crease to the lane, he'll take off for the rim. When defenses collapse, he has an uncanny ability to pitch the ball to the perimeter for one of his trademark assists.
He did all those things against the Longhorns, and left such an impression on coach Rick Barnes that he used Rodriguez as a post-game example of the grit he wants out of his own team.
"Really good players, even when they're not shooting well, they affect the game," he said. "You look at that: eight assists, one turnover. He set the tone. I love him because he's so tough."
Rodriguez couldn't have picked a better time to have one of his better games, either.
His mother was finishing up a two-week stay in the frigid Flint Hills, one filled with plenty of home cooking - Rodriguez is a sucker for mofongo, a garlic-flavored dish of mashed plantains. And on the day of the game, the two of them awoke to find the world under a blanket of white.
It was the first time Rodriguez's mother had ever seen snow.
"Yeah, we took a lot of pictures, and she was happy," Rodriguez recalled with a smile. "When we saw snow, we had to go out there and play a little bit. It was special."
When the game tipped off that evening, Rodriguez was in the middle of everything, his value only growing when McGruder and fellow veteran Martavious Irving got into foul trouble.
More than once, Rodriguez made the kind of did-you-see-that no-look pass that always ends up on highlight reels. And by the time he took a seat late in the fourth quarter, substitutes were flooding into the game and Kansas State was well on its way to an 83-57 rout.
"It's a lot different from back home," Tricoche told The Associated Press after the game, still marveling at the experience. "There are a lot of distractions in Puerto Rico. Coming here and seeing the fans, it's really special. Really beautiful."
Rodriguez said that he made a promise to his mother that if he ever left home, it wouldn't be for no reason. He wanted to make her proud, he said, "and I'm sure she's proud of me."
"I wish I could keep her here forever," he added. "For her to come here and see the atmosphere, the crowd and everything, it's probably the greatest experience she's ever had."