From the first day Dean Wade stepped on Kansas State’s campus, Bruce Weber insisted that Wade was one of the Big 12’s best players “when he wants to be good.”
In Friday night’s conference opener against Texas, Wade wanted to be good.
The sophomore forward scored 18 points, helping K-State to a 65-62 victory over the Longhorns.
“He’s not going to be perfect, but tonight he was pretty good,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “We need him. When he’s open, we want him to shoot it. He’s done a lot of the little things for us over the last seven or eight games.”
Neither team will look upon this game as a highlight of the season, at least offensively. Both squads suffered droughts of at least seven minutes without a field goal.
But K-State (12-1, 1-0 Big 12) was able to heat up in certain stretches. Texas (6-7, 0-1) was not, until late in the game, when the Longhorns rallied to make things interesting in the final minute.
“I didn’t think we were great tonight, but we made enough plays to win,” Weber said. “That’s the most important thing.”
Texas jumped out to an early seven-point lead in the first three minutes of the contest, thanks to its physical defense and rebounding. When K-State started to match the Longhorns in those areas, the game changed permanently.
Wesley Iwundu added 16 points for the Wildcats, while Kamau Stokes logged 15 points and six assists.
The lead grew as large as 13 with 7:23 to play. A pair of Wade threes fueled the run that gave his team a cushion.
K-State didn’t get any contribution from its bench — zero points — but countered it with a solid effort at the free throw line, making 26 of 33. The Wildcats also made nine of their final ten to close the game.
“Making our free throws was a huge part of the game,” Weber said. “I thought we showed a lot of poise down the stretch. It was a really physical game.”
A much tougher test awaits K-State as Weber’s team will head to Lawrence to play No. 3 Kansas next Tuesday.