While everyone else marveled at the pair of game-winning layups Barry Brown made for Kansas State last week, Bruce Weber praised his efforts elsewhere.
Forget about his success off the dribble. Did you see the pass he sent to Kamau Stokes for an open three against West Virginia? That was a good read. What about the four assists he piled up in the first half against Iowa State? He really let the game come to him.
Those plays may feel secondary compared to the highlights Brown produced on his way to Big 12 Player of the Week honors while piling up 52 points and leading the Wildcats to back-to-back conference victories, but they did wonders for K-State in the clutch.
That much was obvious on the driving layup Brown made in the final seconds to beat Iowa State 58-57 on Saturday. Brown, a senior guard, rejected a pair of screens from Dean Wade and Stokes on the right wing and drove into the paint while Xavier Sneed and Cartier Diarra occupied the corners against man defense. In previous weeks, all five defenders likely would have helped against Brown. But the Cyclones were too worried about him passing to an open shooter and let him get to the rim with little resistance.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Wichita Eagle
“He was driving before, there was just no space for him to go,” Weber said, “and we didn’t always make the right reads on what was open. You have to make shots to spread the defense. But the last play we put Kamau and Dean in the ball screen so they worry about those guys and — boom — he has space so he can go one-on-one down the lane.”
Brown has taken advantage of many on-one-one matchups lately. Of the 52 points he scored last week, 18 of them came on dunks and layups. Another 13 came at the free-throw line. Nearly 60 percent of his scoring came on drives to the basket.
That wasn’t possible before Stokes and Wade returned to the lineup from foot injuries and Brown reminded opposing teams he is both a capable facilitator and capable scorer.
K-State has seen less zone defense and its offense, though still shaky at times, is trending up.
Brown is the main reason why. K-State struggled mightily against Texas Tech when he made just five of 17 shots. But it thrived as he made nine of 14 against West Virginia and nine of 20 at Iowa State.
Having two senior starters back has certainly helped. But Brown has also played smarter. When defenders clogged the lane against him, he scored on mid-range jumpers and three-pointers.
“I just took what what they gave me,” Brown said. “They were running under ball screens and pushing with their five and four man, whichever one it was. That was their scheme and Coach (Chester) Frazier told us how to score off of it. I just did what we practiced.”
“Maybe he’s a little more determined,” Weber added.
Brown’s improved play will be put to the test against Oklahoma on Wednesday at Lloyd Noble Center.
The Sooners are much improved on defense under coach Lon Kruger this season and will likely prioritize Brown in their scouting report after everything he did last week.
They may try to force him to score in new ways.
Brown realizes that, but he doesn’t seem concerned. The way he’s playing, he’s prepared for anything.