It’s time to start taking Kansas State seriously as a Big 12 contender (well, at least for second place. We begrudgingly admit the conference belongs to that other school to the East until proven otherwise). The ‘Cats beat Baylor 90-83 on its home floor, and really, it didn’t feel that close.
Dean Wade brought some momentum from his Big 12 Player of the Week honor and scored 24 points on 9-of-12 shooting while adding 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Remarkably, he wasn’t Kansas State’s best offensive threat.
That would be Mr. Barry Brown, who got the ball every time the ‘Cats couldn’t find a basket within the typical offense, and he didn’t disappoint. The junior guard lit up the Bears for 34 points on 9-of-16 shooting (4-of-8 from threes, with almost all of them contested, seemingly) and 12-of-12 from the free throw line. Oh yeah, he also dished out five assists and grabbed four rebounds.
The first half followed a familiar script, with K-State doing everything right to jump out to a 29-13 lead before Baylor cut the deficit to just five at halftime. Fortunately, this game went more like the OU win than the TCU win in the second half, even though an 11-0 Baylor run probably got some Bruce haters fired up.
Dean Wade looked unstoppable while scoring 11 of Kansas State’s first 22 points in just about every way imaginable, including a great steal followed by an 80-foot coast-to-coast and-1 (he missed the free throw) capped by a ridiculous running layup/shot. Unfortunately, after seven minutes he suddenly, well, got stopped, and you have to wonder how much was Baylor’s defensive adjustment and how much was Dean turning down the aggression dial after he missed a short jumper he usually makes.
Either way, I think Bruce deserves some credit for dialing up an alley-oop to Wade from Cartier Diarra to start the second half, and they executed it perfectly to get the big man back on track. Still, the half belonged to Barry Brown, who largely took over point guard duties with Diarra uncharacteristically looking like a freshman in a tough road environment, and Brown used screens and took advantage of mismatches all night.
I guess Baylor got it within six points once and seven multiple times in the second half, but Kansas State appeared very much in control. Amaad Wainwright even added a somewhat rare boost with seven points off the bench — including a big three and a thunderous dunk — so that was pretty cool.
Player of the Game: Barry Brown
Dean Wade is getting most of the attention right now, and deservedly so, because he’s coming into his own and legitimately looks like a Big 12 First Teamer. But Barry Brown has developed into possibly the conference’s most complete player. Not only did he put up the incredible offensive numbers noted above, he also snagged two steals and kept Manu Lecomte scoreless for quite a while before he finally got going, ending up with 18 points and 9 free throws. If I had to pick one K-State player right now to nominate for the All-Big 12 first team, it would be a tough decision, but my choice would be Barry Brown.
Three in the Key
- Kansas State improved to 4-2 on the road this season (yes, Washington State in Spokane counts as a road game) and of course that would be 5-1 if Barry’s three had gone down in Lawrence. Yes, the home wins against ranked teams look more impressive, but historically speaking (Bruce was 9-30 in Big 12 road games since he won a regular season title before tonight, and just 15-33 even if you include that team) these wins have been much rarer. Then again, last year the ‘Cats went 4-5 on the road in conference, including a win at Baylor with a loss to the Bears in Manhattan, so maybe it’s just something about these players.
- Sure, Cartier Diarra had some hiccups late, but he still looked solid (6 assists to 2 turnovers) and Kansas State only committed 10 turnovers on the road. Yes, I know Baylor is the league’s worst team at forcing turnovers, but this is a trend with the ‘Cats currently averaging 11.4 turnovers per game, the lowest number in the Big 12. Thank goodness, because that helps make up for....
- The rebounding in this game was, as expected, fairly atrocious. Baylor does this very well and outrebounded Kansas State 37-19, grabbing 15 offensive rebounds to K-State’s 17 rebounds. That’s not good. It’s encouraging that this weakness is clearly one the ‘Cats can overcome, but it still sure would be nice to see some more improvement.
Next up, K-State plays one of those stupid January nonconference games via the well-intentioned SEC/Big 12 challenge, taking on a bubbling Georgia team that — uh-oh — ranks second only to Texas A&M in the SEC in rebounding margin. The Bulldogs have lost 3 of 4 and could be desperate for a resume-boosting win in Manhattan, so Kansas State can’t afford a letdown that could lead to a costly loss.