Time seemed to slow down for Dean Wade before he launched a potential game-winning shot at Allen Fieldhouse last season.
Wade came off a screen and prepared to catch a pass on the wing. As the ball moved toward him, he remembers thinking the following words: “Oh yeah, this is money.”
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Kansas defenders Devonte Graham and Landen Lucas weren’t close enough to contest Wade at the three-point line, so he shot with confidence. He thought it was going in. So did Kansas State coach Bruce Weber. It looked like the Wildcats were about to beat the Jayhawks on the road for the first time since 2006.
“I was open so I shot it,” Wade said. “It looked good.”
“It was straight on,” Weber said, “and as good a look as you are going to have to win a game there.”
More than a year has passed since that moment, and Wade still isn’t sure how to explain why the ball bounced off the back rim on K-State’s final possession, leading to a controversial 90-88 KU victory seconds later.
If his shot goes in, Wesley Iwundu and Xavier Sneed don’t lose the rebound out of bounds. If his shot goes in, the Jayhawks have to respond with a three and Svi Mykhailiuk doesn’t get away with an extra step on his way to the basket for a game-winning layup.
Wade tries not to think about that missed opportunity, but it’s not always easy.
“There will be times when coach says something about it and I think about it,” Wade said. “Oh well.”
Wade will get a shot at redemption Saturday when K-State travels to Lawrence for an 11 a.m. Sunflower Showdown with Kansas. He is hoping to take advantage. Wade played well against KU last season, scoring 20 points on the road and 20 more at home. The Wildcats used screens to create mismatches for the 6-foot-10 forward, and he attacked from all angles.
Those remain two of his best games in a K-State uniform. But his team lost both by a combined five points.
This time, he wants to do a little more and win.
“It would be big,” Wade said. “It would be really big for us as a team to get another Big 12 road win. That would be huge for us. Going into Lawrence and getting a win would be huge for every K-Stater.”
If Kansas switches defenders on ball screens, allowing Wade to go one-on-one against smaller KU players, Weber will give him the green light to shoot from anywhere the same way he did against Iowa State earlier this season when Wade erupted for 34.
“It depends how they guard him,” Weber said. “They have been playing small ball for the most part. Last year, they switched a lot. We got Frank (Mason) on him some. Graham was on him some, and that is where we took advantage.”
Wade has grown as a player in the past year.
At the time, a 20-point game from Wade seemed extraordinary. Now, it hardly seems surprising when he takes over a game. He scored 34 against Iowa State this season, as well as 25 against Oral Roberts, and is averaging 18.8 points in Big 12 games.
He returns to Allen Fieldhouse feeling the same way he did before launching his potential game-winning three – confident.
“I have been watching these K-State/KU games since I was … I couldn’t even tell you how old,” Wade said. “They have been crazy the last few years. Hopefully, we go in there and play well, and it’s a good game.”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett