Dean Wade can be a mismatch problem for any opponent, but he has been a mismatch nightmare for Kansas this season.
Wade, a sophomore forward from St. John, led the Wildcats with 20 points at Allen Fieldhouse last month and hit the Jayhawks with another 20 points on Monday at Bramlage Coliseum.
They go down as career highs and Wade’s best two individual showings of the season.
Monday’s box score
“I just think he is a good player,” KU coach Bill Self said of Wade. “He is a Kansas kid and he is playing against KU, just like Perry Ellis was a Kansas kid playing against K-State and he always played well against K-State. I don’t think that is totally unusual.”
Unfortunately for Wade, neither game resulted in victory. He hasn’t been able to celebrate either performance and walked from this one without a positive emotion of any kind.
There was too much frustration for him after a 74-71 loss to focus on the way he played.
“It was a big game,” Wade said. “We were all ready for it. We had a lot of energy going into it, a lot of emotions. Watching it growing up as a kid, I think it means a lot to me, but it means just as much to the entire team.”
Wade has done everything but beat Kansas this season. Remember, he’s the one that launched a potential go-ahead three in the final moments in Lawrence. The shot bounced off the rim and the Jayhawks won 90-88 at the buzzer.
This time, he guided the Wildcats to a 60-59 lead by sinking a jumper with 4 minutes, 22 seconds remaining and then tied the score at 63-63 on a corner three with 2:53 to go.
He wisely used screens to find favorable matchups and found a path to the basket.
“It is just my teammates,” Wade said. “They are looking at mismatches and they are giving me the ball when I am open. I give all credit to them.”
At 6-foot-10, Wade often found himself matched up against the smaller Lagerald Vick (6-5) on offense, the equally big Landen Lucas and the versatile Josh Jackson. He had success against all of them, posting up and shooting over Vick, using his feet to get around Lucas and going toe-to-toe with Jackson.
“Dean had an unbelievable game,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said.
He scored his points on 8 of 12 shooting, adding six rebounds and four assists.
“They played to (Wade) quite a bit and he hurt us with that some,” Self said. “He is a good player and he shot the heck out of it. He was three for three from three. We knew he could shoot it, but not like that.”
He did all he could to lead K-State past its in-state rival, but fell a tad short.
Still, it was a positive sign. This was his second straight strong game. He also scored 12 points and was a difference maker for the Wildcats on Saturday when they beat Baylor on the road, ending a forgettable streak of three games in which he scored a total of seven points and became a non-factor.
Wade was at his best Monday, and the foot injury that slowed him during the late part of January seems to be behind him.
“He was able to go inside, and he made big plays,” Weber said. “We probably need to get it to him a little more.”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett