In the moments after Wednesday’s 58-48 win over Texas, Bruce Weber could only think about the future.
The victory gave Weber, Kansas State’s head coach, 20 wins for the fourth time in his six seasons. But that achievement — and the Longhorns — couldn’t have been further from his mind.
“All I’m worried about is Oklahoma right now,” said Weber, looking ahead to Saturday’s road clash with the Sooners, which tips off at 5 p.m. at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Oklahoma, and will air nationally on ESPN2. “If we’re satisfied right now with 20 (wins), who knows what can happen?w”
Above all, Weber was pleased how his team responded in Wednesday’s second half. After heading into the locker room knotted at 25, the Wildcats finished with a flourish in the final 20 minutes, in large part because of junior guard Barry Brown, who scored 14 of his game-high 16 points down the stretch.
Weber said he was proud of the victory because it “showed some mental toughness.” And it also showed, he said, players had put individual goals on the backburner.
“We’re too late in the season to worry about what’s best for you,” Weber said. “You’ve got to worry about what’s best for the team. I think they’ve really bought into that. We’ve got some great leadership.”
That leadership must come to the fore Saturday, as Weber expects another nip-and-tuck Big 12 contest.
“They’re fighting for their lives,” Weber said of the Sooners’ NCAA tournament aspirations, “so we’ve got to find a way to go at them and see if we can get another road win.”
K-State won the first meeting between the two teams this season, knocking off then-No. 4 Oklahoma 87-69 at Bramlage Coliseum. It was a forgettable game for Oklahoma freshman phenom Trae Young, who entered the contest leading the country in both points (30.1) and assists per game (10).
He managed 20 points against the Wildcats while committing a career-high 12 turnovers.
Weber isn’t sure if K-State can force Young into replicating those numbers Saturday. And it’s not just because he’s struggled since then. It’s because, Weber said, the Sooners have started to use more of the offensive schemes they favored last season instead the Young-centric attack they utilized in the first meeting.
That philosophy, Weber said, involved “ball screens with Young 80-90 percent of the time.” The Sooners aren’t so reliant on that now.
“He still does it, and he’ll still have it at times, but Mak is a key,” said Weber, alluding to K-State forward Makol Mawien. “When we played Oklahoma, he was plus-24 when he was in the game. If he’s mobile and can deal with the ball screens, you’ve got Barry, Carti (Diarra), fighting over those ball screens, and then everybody else is in the right position. I don’t know if we can duplicate it, but we’ll do our best.”
Sophomore forward Xavier Sneed echoed that sentiment, saying the Wildcats always have to be aware of Young’s court position.
“It’s just (about) keeping a body near him at all times, not letting him get a rhythm or any thing like that,” Sneed said. “And just keeping hands up as well. So hopefully we do that again this weekend.”