Only Dean Wade could score a career-high 34 points in a difficult road environment like Hilton Coliseum and not realize he did something special until a player on the opposing team told him about it.
That’s what happened Friday during Kansas State’s 91-75 victory over Iowa State in the Big 12 opener for both teams, a victory that sends a message to anyone that thought the Wildcats (11-2) built an impressive record solely because of their soft nonconference schedule.
Wade was the main reason K-State found success at Iowa State for the first time since 2011, and he broke out on his terms, firing away from three-point range on pick-and-pop plays and attacking the rim against smaller defenders.
He played so well that he got lost in the moment and laughed when an Iowa State player informed him of his statistics. Now maybe he will understand why K-State coach Bruce Weber has urged him to be aggressive throughout his college career.
“I honestly didn’t feel like I was doing anything crazy, like 34,” Wade said afterward. “I was just focused on the next play, rebounding basically, because that was a big emphasis at halftime.”
Whatever his mindset was against the Cyclones, the Wildcats will take more of it.
We have seen big games from Wade before, including a pair of 20-point efforts against Kansas last season and 25 against Oral Roberts this season, but they have always been few and far between.
This seemed different. The way he played Friday seemed sustainable. Sure, he won’t always go against smaller defenders in the rugged Big 12, and he won’t always score 34 points, but he will regularly be open rolling off screens on the perimeter. In years past, he has been reluctant to shoot in that situation. During a NCAA Tournament loss to Cincinnati last season, he passed up so many shots that teammate Kamau Stokes slapped him in the chest and yelled “shoot the (expletive) ball!”
Wade needed no such encouragement against Iowa State, making 13 of 16 shots, including 6 of 8 from beyond the arc.
“Most of it was my teammates,” Wade said. “The defense has to collapse on Kamau and Barry coming off ball screens and that leaves me all by myself wide open. Once you hit the first one you feel a little more confident on the second one, so on and so forth.”
He also grabbed eight rebounds.
“If you are going to win road games in the Big 12 you have to have somebody step up and be special,” Weber said. “Obviously, he was special. He was huge. He shot it with confidence, played with confidence and wanted the ball.”
Iowa State had no answer for him.
“You come in here and get 34,” Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said, “you are very, very good player.”
This wasn’t just the Dean Wade Show. Kamau Stokes had 23 points and seven assists. Barry Brown had 21 points. Together, K-State’s three main scorers combined for 78 points, enough to defeat Iowa State all by themselves.
What does that stat mean to them?
“It means we did our job,” Stokes said. “Like Dean said, they have to collapse on me and Barry and stop us from getting in the paint. When we drag them, Dean is wide open and it’s just up to him to make the shot and for us to make the pass. That’s something we should be doing all the time.”
Scoring came easy for them against a weak defensive opponent like the Cyclones, but they played smart and took good shots.
“I like that they were efficient,” Weber said. “Dean was really efficient, but Kamau went 7 for 13 and Barry went 7 for 14. They got to the free-throw line. Barry has been unbelievable from the free-throw line. And they had to grind it out, playing 30-plus minutes.”
Small lineup, big results
While it was unsettling to watch starting center Makol Mawien foul out while playing just five minutes, it was probably a good thing for K-State in this game. Mawdo Sallah and Levi Stockard encountering foul trouble might have helped, too.
Why? It forced the Wildcats to play small, and they had a lot of success with Wade at the five, Xavier Sneed at the four and an extra guard on the floor. K-State has its best five players on the floor with its small lineup, and it used that combination well against Iowa State.
Cartier Diarra came off the bench to provide 16 solid minutes and Amaad Wainright helped out everywhere while playing 27 minutes.
The Wildcats went small out of necessity against the Cyclones, but they might want to think about playing small by choice in future games.
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett