Well, now. Wasn’t that special?
In Ames, Iowa Friday night, Kansas State’s men dominated the second half of their Big 12 opener against Iowa State, coming away with a 92-75 victory.
The headline of the night was Dean Wade. The 6’10 junior from St. John, Kansas poured in a career high 34 points, on 13-16 shooting (6-of-8 from three-point land). For good measure, he added eight rebounds, two steals, an assist and a block. Can we please keep this Dean Wade for the rest of the season? Maybe next year, too?
Every Batman needs a Robin, and Dean had two (or three) tonight. Kamau Stokes hit almost everything in the first half to keep the Wildcats in a defense-free rec league pickup game, and finished with 23 points on 7-13 (5-6) shooting for the night. He also tossed seven assists, stole the ball three times, and even mixed it up with the giants for three rebounds.
When Dean and Kamau needed to cool their fingertips, Barry Brown took command. He scored 21 on 7-14 (1-4) marksmanship, and added two steals and four assists to his line.
Xavier Sneed was saddled with early foul trouble, but hit two big three-pointers to extend K-State’s lead midway through the second half, and converted a powerful follow-slam that capped the night. He finished with nine points and six rebounds. As a team, K-State edged the Cyclones on the boards, 34-33.
Iowa State Freshman Lindell Wigginton showed his potential, scoring 23 points and forcing fouls on nearly every player in a purple shirt. Solomon Young (16), and Nick Weiler-Babb (14) joined Wigginton in double figures, Babb’s points coming on 5-of-15 shooting. Athletic redshirt freshman Cameron Lard came off the bench to score 13 and grab nine rebounds.
The game was a track meet early, with Iowa State leading twice by six, 16-10 and 39-33. Behind five three-point makes and 21 first-half points from Stokes, the Wildcats went to the locker room nursing a 53-50 lead.
The second half opened with K-State asserting itself on the defensive end. Iowa State did not score until two free throws at 16:22 brought the score to 58-22, and it did not make a field goal until 14:53 remained in the game. The Cyclones started the second half 0-for-8 from the floor, and turned the ball over three times during the shooting drought.
More of this, Please.
1. Dean Wade. That Dean Wade. Once Kamau established himself as a player Iowa State absolutely could not, under any circumstances, leave open, he and Dean played perfect two-man, high post basketball. Kamau drew defenders on dribble moves off of Wade screens, tossed it back to Dean, and the big man knocked down threes off the pick-and-pop. Thing of beauty. When he wasn’t doing that, Wade was catching the ball wide or in the high post, putting it on the floor, and scoring on nifty up-and-under moves. He was aggressive without being reckless. He was the best player on a floor that, at times, looked flooded with talent on both sides. It was sublime. And we need it on the regular.
2. Drought-free offense. Since it relies so much on jump-shooting, this team has been prone to prolonged scoring lulls. There was none of that tonight. Hitting 50% from three and 55.2% overall helps avoid those vacuums. Mixing in attacks on the glass, and scoring 30 points in the paint doesn’t hurt, either. Barry Brown, particularly, was effective off the bounce tonight.
3. Maturity. Many is the team that showed up in Ames, got down early to the hot-shooting Cyclones, and played panicky basketball the rest of the night. K-State’s veterans exuded calm after falling behind, kept working, grabbed a lead, and never trailed again after the 3:40 mark of the first half. They did it even though the squad was plagued with foul trouble right from the jump.
No More of this, Please!
1. Tempting as it is to eschew the complaints, not everything was perfect. Problem one: Foul trouble. Makol Mawien appeared to have turned the corner in the final tune-up games before Christmas. Tonight, he barely got to break a sweat. Mawien fouled out without scoring—without shooting, actually—in five minutes of play. Well, it counted as five minutes. But some of those “minutes” couldn’t have been more than a few seconds, in actuality. He got way more exercise in pre-game warm-up.
Early in the game, radio color analyst Stan Weber suggested the reunion with Big 12 refs was something he could have done without. K-State was ticketed for 27 fouls on the night, while Iowa State was whistled for 19. That equated to a 37-21 free throw disparity. Fortunately, the Cyclones obliged by missing 12 of those freebies. The margin for error with this squad is not so great that it can give up that many charity tosses on a regular basis. Move your feet and keep your hands off, guys.
2. The bigs, generally. K-State got very little production from any tall man, apart from Dean Wade. Levi Stockard picked up the slack caused by Mawien’s early hacking with 15 minutes of playing time, and he and did contribute 5 rebounds. He was active batting misses back out front to save possessions.
Apart from him? Mawien cracked the scorebook with one rebound before picking up five fouls. Mawdo Sallah played only two minutes, missing one shot, grabbing one rebound, and turning the ball over once. I’m sure Bruce would have preferred to wait another night or two, but the long-injured James Love, III saw his first action, playing one minute and immediately picking up a foul. Nigel Shadd, who has played in previous games, did not check in. Let’s hope he’s healthy.
K-State got away with the 5-spot doughnut tonight. But Iowa State probably runs out the smallest lineup in the conference. With the likes of Azubuike, Mo Bamba, and Lual-Acuill (who did not play tonight in Baylor’s 77-53 loss at Texas Tech) on the horizon, the ‘Cat big men will have to bring more to the floor than 20 collective fouls to give.
3. Bench scoring. This is nit-picking, without a doubt. When Wade, Brown and Stokes are collectively exploding, there is no need for bench players to force shots. But how many nights will we get 34, 23 and 21 from those guys? Cartier Diarra scored on a nice drive and finish and generally handled point guard duties well when Stokes had to sit briefly with four fouls. Amaad Wainright made his only shot off a nice high-post feed late in the game. Wainright brings energy and contributes in lots of small ways, even if he does not score. But there will be nights when match-ups and foul trouble demand more from the two leading bench players, and from Sallah and Stockard, too. They have yet to show consistently that they are up to the task.
So, a good start, all in all. Better than most of us expected, probably. But it’s over now, and time to move on. Huggy and his guys came from behind to win 85-79 against Oklahoma State tonight. They will be in Bramlage at 4:00 Central on New Year’s Day to show us how winning through fouling is really done.