The Kansas State Wildcats did exactly what a first-place basketball team is supposed to do against a middling opponent on Saturday at Bramlage Coliseum.
K-State hammered Oklahoma State 85-46 and put the Cowboys away early in a conference matchup that felt as lopsided as a November game against a directional school.
It was an ideal result for the Wildcats (21-6, 11-3 Big 12) as they stay all alone atop the league standings and prepare for one of their most difficult games of the season — a Big Monday road trip to Kansas.
This one was over before the first media timeout. At least, it might as well have been. The Wildcats were on cruise control after they jumped out to a 15-0 lead.
They dominated in every way, forcing Oklahoma State (10-17, 3-11) coach Mike Boynton to call timeout at the 17:14 mark of the first half with his team down 8-0. It took the Cowboys nearly six minutes to score their first points. They came on a pair of free throws from Isaac Likekele following a defensive miscommunication between K-State’s Barry Brown and Mike McGuirl, making the score 15-2.
It wasn’t the start of a comeback.
The Wildcats honored their past by wearing throwback lavender uniforms and made the former players that used to wear that color proud with the most lopsided victory of the season.
They came out on fire. Brown got the rout going by stealing a pass at midcourt and taking it the other way for a dunk, Makol Mawien followed with a layup, and before you knew it the Wildcats were hitting shots from everywhere.
Dean Wade and Kamau Stokes hit three-pointers, Xavier Sneed threw down a dunk … Even Austin Trice came off the bench to score.
K-State pulled ahead 23-6 by making 76.9 percent of its shots and went on to own the first half in every statistical category. The Wildcats led 42-18 at halftime behind 11 points from Stokes, seven points from Brown and six apiece from Sneed and Mawien.
The Wildcats made 64 percent of their shots from the field, 45.5 percent of their shots from three and 83.3 percent of their shots from the free-throw line.
All the while, they played excellent defense by holding Oklahoma State without a single three-pointer and just six makes from two-point range.
The big lead gave K-State coach Bruce Weber the confidence to play reserves without fear of things spiraling out of control with stars like Brown and Wade on the bench. That gave them valuable rest before they head to Lawrence for one of their most anticipated games of the year.
K-State found itself in a similar position at Oklahoma State earlier this month. The Wildcats led by 30 late in that game, but Weber emptied the bench and played walk-ons during the final few minutes, allowing the Cowboys to make the final score 75-57.
But that wasn’t an issue here. Weber turned to reserves with about 12 minutes remaining, and they kept their foot on the gas. Nigel Shadd put the finishing touches on the blowout with an alley-oop dunk.
Trice actually tied Sneed as the team’s leading scorer with 12 points.
This was an opportunity for K-State’s backups to shine and for its starters to rest up for a big game on Monday.