MANHATTAN — It’s not often Bruce Weber uses “nightmare” to describe an opposing player.
But the Kansas State basketball coach did exactly that while researching Oklahoma forward Cameron Clark over the weekend.
“He has had some huge games against very good defensive teams,” Weber said of Clark. “It’s a nightmare matchup.”
Clark, a 6-foot-7 senior, has done it all for the No. 25 Sooners. He is leading the Big 12 in scoring (18.3 points) while shooting 42 percent from three-point range and averaging six rebounds. He has scored 32 points against Michigan State and Kansas, and he helped Oklahoma hand Iowa State its first loss on Saturday.
Many expected this to be a rebuilding year for Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger, but Clark has helped Oklahoma into the national rankings.
He has made threes, thrown down dunks and set up he has setup his teammates with crisp passes. He’s the focal point of the Big 12’s best offense, which averages 87 points.
“He really is a guard, but they have him playing as a hybrid four,” Weber said. “They do a lot of actions where they have the guards clipping him and screening him and they run a lot of isolations.
“Lon has done a great job of taking the talent he has and creating an offense that really puts you in a bind. (Clark) can get you inside, he can get you on the isolation, on the top of the key to the basket and he is very good in transition. When he shoots the ball well, he is very tough to stop.”
K-State will need to find a way to slow him down when it faces Oklahoma at 6 p.m. Tuesday inside Bramlage Coliseum. It will be an interesting game of contrasting teams. While Oklahoma leads the Big 12 in scoring, K-State leads the Big 12 in defense, allowing 59.8 points.
It won 10 straight from late November to early January by stifling opponents with defensive pressure, but an off day resulted in a 86-60 loss to Kansas on Saturday.
Weber has urged his team to move past that game, to remember its identity and to treat this like the biggest game on the schedule.
“Regroup and go get it,” Weber said he told the Wildcats.
They might need to score more than usual to beat the Sooners, but they will definitely need to play strong defense.
That starts with Clark. It won’t be easy.
“He generally is a pretty good mismatch,” Kruger said. “He is strong physically, but he is also pretty quick. He can shoot the ball well from range. He is a guy who can stop and shoot it, but he is also a guy who can go by you. Those are ideal mismatch opportunities.”
The strange thing about Clark is he wasn’t a difference maker in his first three seasons. He averaged 9.3 points as a freshman, but regressed as he got older. His production and playing time dropped as a sophomore and then again as a junior. It seemed like he would once again be a role player as a senior.
Instead, he worked his way into a breakout season.
“He realizes the significance of his role as far as impacting the team’s results,” Kruger said, “and he worked awfully hard in the summer to improve his shooting range and consistency and ball-handling. He has done a terrific job for us, which is great to see, because he has worked so hard. When you see a guy invest that much, it’s nice to see him get good results. It’s reinforcement to all those other guys that that extra can pay off.”