After back-to-back lackluster performances resulted in K-State road losses at Marquette and Tulsa, today’s home tilt against the Georgia State Panthers felt as if it could be a pivot point in the season. Though the Wildcats won 71-58, at the 13:50 mark of the second half, the season may have taken a major turn for the worse.
Playing well, with 12 points, 9 rebounds and three assists at the time, Dean Wade went down in the open floor in front of K-State’s bench, holding his right lower leg. He never reentered the game and, in fact, went to the locker room on crutches, reportedly nursing a sore foot. A stress fracture in the foot kept Wade out of most of K-State’s tournament run last season, so the development is particularly troubling.
With Dean out, Georgia State went on a 9-0 run to knot the game at 48-48.
As if the fates truly hated K-State on this day, about four minutes of game time later, Kamau Stokes turned his ankle on the foot of a Georgia State bench player while chasing a loose ball. He had been one of K-State’s most efficient contributors on the day, scoring 15 points on 4-for-6 3-point shooting. He also had 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals.
Georgia State returned seven lettermen and four starters from a team that made the NCAA field last year, and when Nelson Phillips hit a lay-up with 9:51 to play, the visitors had a 53-50 lead and looked poised to pull the upset.
Fortunately, Barry Brown and the supporting cast stepped up to prevent a third straight loss. Brown hit a lay-up and a three to regain the ‘Cat lead. A loose ball led to a transition alley-oop from Mike McGuirl to Cartier Diarra, putting K-State up 57-53, and in front to stay.
Brown scored eight points in only six minutes of first-half play before sitting with foul trouble. Both teams were sloppy in the half, going to the break with 10 turnovers each. The statistics were amazingly equal across the board at the half, in fact, with Georgia State shooting 11-25, while K-State was 12-25. The Wildcats had a 14-12 rebounding edge and led 35-32 on the scoreboard.
Georgia State entered the contest averaging 75.4 points per game. The K-State defense held the Panthers to 59, on 43% shooting, including 25.8% (8-31) from outside.
Barry Brown led all scorers with 21 points, shooting 8-10 from the field, 4-5 from three-point range. Stokes contributed 15, Xavier Sneed added 14, and Wade had 12 before leaving the game with his injury.
Georgia State was paced by senior forward Jeff Thomas’s 13.
Stat of the game: K-State had 23 assists on 25 field goals.
Now, we wait for news on the two seniors, Wade and Stokes, who battled eerily similar injuries last season. Light a candle; say a prayer; do whatever it is you do to beg for good karma for this team. Though it made its tournament run without Dean last year and with Stokes essentially playing on one healthy leg, it will be difficult to reach the lofty heights we all want for this team if the two of them are lost for a significant time.
Player of the Game
The game was trending toward either Dean or Kam getting this honor. When they went down, the other senior, Barry Brown, stepped up. His 21 points came on only 10 shots from the field and in only 25 minutes of action. Diarra, Sneed, and McGuirl (with 5 assists, 4 rebounds and 2 steals) helped fill the void, as well. But when the team looked to Barry, he provided the leadership they needed to pull away for the win.
Next up: K-State will play Southern Mississippi (7-3) on Wednesday at 7:00.