STILLWATER, Okla. — A shot of redemption is a lot easier to come by when shots are falling.
One week after sleepwalking through a 12-point loss at Texas A&M, the Kansas State Wildcats came out with guns blazing Saturday night in their return to Big 12 action, knocking down 16 3-pointers on the way to a 75-57 rout of Oklahoma State at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
With the victory, the Wildcats improved to 16-5 overall and remained atop the Big 12 standings at 6-2 heading into Tuesday night’s Sunflower Showdown against Kansas in Manhattan. They led by as many as 34 points with 5 1/2 minutes left before clearing the bench.
“Our last game was not good against Texas A&M, so we just wanted to come back and play with the same energy we played with before and play together,” said K-State senior forward Dean Wade, who hit all nine of his shots and led the Wildcats with 24 points. “And tonight we came out and played with the right energy, with the right level, followed the scouting report, executed it and I think that just gave us a chance.”
So did K-State’s shot-making, noticeably absent against Texas A&M’s zone defense in last week’s SEC/Big 12 Challenge. That 65-53 setback broke a five-game winning streak.
The Wildcats shot 61.5 percent on the way to a 43-27 halftime advantage over Oklahoma State and finished at 53.1 percent for the game, hitting 16 of 29 3-point attempts.
The 16 3-pointers were the second-most in school history and most ever in a conference game.
“After last week, it’s really encouraging, I guess,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said of the 3-point barrage against a variety of Oklahoma State defensive looks. “I’ve said all along I thought we could be a good shooting team — we should be.
“The ball movement was really spectacular and kind of what we have hoped for all year. They change defenses so much to keep you out of rhythm and I said I could give you plays and all that, but you’ve got to play basketball, and that’s what we did.”
Wade was perfect on three 3-point attempts and Brown made five on the way to an 18-point performance. Cartier Diarra came off the bench to contribute 10 points.
But shooting was not the only highlight for the Wildcats, who locked down defensively until OSU made a late run with the starters watching from the bench. K-State scored the last 13 points of the first half and six more to start the second, holding the Cowboys scoreless for 9 minutes, 11 seconds.
“They did shoot the ball better than they have all season,” OSU guard Thomas Dziagwa said. “When a team that is that good defensively is shooting the ball that well offensively, you’re in for a tough game then.”
Throw in a 36-26 rebounding cushion — Wade had six and Xavier Sneed five — plus 19 assists on 26 baskets and it was a complete performance.
“The 19-0 run probably broke their spirit,” Weber said. “The great finish to the half and start of the second half, and our defense was also really good.
“That gives you a chance because we got stops and then into transition and could beat them down the court, and that really helps. We really defended at a high, high level, and that’s got to be our constant the rest of the way.”
K-State made just one of its first five 3-point attempts and trailed by five points early, but back-to-back threes from Brown and Diarra erased the deficit. Five straight points from Wade — a hook shot, technical foul free throw and an open dunk off a feed from Kamau Stokes — started a 10-1 run that put the Wildcats in front for good, 25-17, on Brown’s 3-pointer at the 6:08 mark.
It was smooth sailing from there, a welcome sight for Weber after the Texas A&M debacle.
“It was miserable for me last week,” Weber said. “I was so disappointed. I’m disappointed in myself that I didn’t help get them ready.
“I knew it was going to be a hard game because of human nature, but I guess if that helped us, losing to get ready for today, it’s worth the pain and the suffering. But we can’t go through any more learning — we’ve got to keep moving forward and stay focused.”