Dean Wade’s scoring Friday night couldn’t have been more opportune for Kansas State.
When Wade tipped in a miss in the first half Friday night, his K-State team pulled within 11-6 of Texas.
The basket sparked a 15-0 K-State run, and the Wildcats took a 32-29 lead into halftime.
And when the sophomore drilled consecutive triples to open the second half, Bramlage Coliseum roared. The second 3-pointer gave K-State a 38-33 lead, and the Wildcats hung on for a 65-62 win over Texas.
Wade totaled 18 points on the night, perhaps none more vital than the two 3s to spark what turned into an 11-2 run. Senior Wesley Iwundu canned a 3-pointer in that span as well, and Wade finished on a layup for a 41-33 lead.
“My teammates found me, and I was in rhythm,” Wade said.
But Texas refused to die.
From there, the Wildcats stretched their lead as large as 56-44, but Texas rallied and pulled to within 63-60 — but only seven seconds remained, and K-State hung on for its first conference-opening home win since 2014.
“I think it’s big for us. Get our confidence up,” Wade said. “To start out the conference (play) with a win, it’s big.”
For as impressive a night scoring as was it was for K-State — Iwundu posted 16 points, and sophomore Kamau Stokes added 15 — it was the Wildcats’ defense that made the difference much of the night.
K-State suffocated Texas into a 7:27 scoring drought in the first half, a span that allowed for the Wildcats to tally the 15 unanswered points.
“I know there was a stretch of seven minutes or so that they didn’t score,” K-State head coach Bruce Weber said. “I thought we were physical.”
The stifling defense from K-State stretched into the second half, too. The Wildcats’ 11-2 run to open the second half came when they forced Texas into a 3:24 scoring drought, and K-State snatched a 53-40 lead when the Longhorns endured another dry spell — this one lasted 4:07.
Texas finished shooting 46 percent, but much of that can be attributed to its 7-of-7 mark to end the game. The Longhorns airmailed a number of 3s on their way to a 5-of-18 mark from distance.
But what Weber appreciated was that on a night when the shot wasn’t falling — K-State shot just 36 percent — his team found a way to win.
“That’s the nice thing about this team,” Weber said. “Somebody asked the other day, I was doing a radio interview, ‘Who’s going make your plays at the end of the game?’ I think that’s the good thing about us — every day, it’s different.”
Before that first-half run, however, things looked grim for the home team.
Texas bolted out to a 6-0 run to open the game behind a series of offensive rebounds and putbacks. At the first media timeout, Texas was in the midst of a 7-1 rebounding edge, and the Wildcats missed each of their first five 3-pointers.
That’s when K-State struck with stifling defense, an effort that translated to the Wildcats’ run. A lot of the run came at the free throw line — seven of the 15 points were foul shots, and the Wildcats finished 26-of-33 night at the charity stripe
Stokes connected on 9 of his 10.
“We’ve put a little more time in,” Weber said. “I’ve made them shoot. We’ve spent a little more time just talking about it.”
On top of a defensive performance Weber lauded after the game, his K-State club made sure it spread the wealth on offense. The Wildcats tallied 14 assists on 17 shots.
“We moved the basketball, and we probably would have had more assists if you make some of those shots,” Weber said.
Next up on the docket for K-State, though, is an opponent it hasn’t beaten on the road since 2006: Kansas.
But the Wildcats will travel to Lawrence on Tuesday hoping to do whatever it can to knock off the No. 3 Jayhawks.
“I’ll have the same thoughts as going into this game,” Stokes said of the matchup with KU. “We’ve got to execute and worry about our team. We’ve just got to go in there and play our game.”