AMES, Iowa — Kansas State achieved the atypical Friday.
Three scorers with 20-plus points? First time since a 2010 double-overtime win against Xavier in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
A career-high 34 points from Dean Wade? First time a Wildcat netted 30 since Marcus Foster dropped 34 on Texas in 2014.
A road win to begin Big 12 play? First time in 10 years and only the third time in 13 tries since the inception of the conference in 1996-97.
K-State did all that and, in the process, clobbered Iowa State 91-75 in Hilton Coliseum.
Granted, magic may never be performed in Hilton this season. The Cyclones came in with a nine-game winning streak, but also the worst KenPom rating (79th) among Big 12 teams. They did not play a lick of defense, missed a bunch of and-one opportunities and also bricked their first eight shots of the second half.
Still, any road win is impressive in the Big 12. In the case of K-State (11-2), it was evidence the Cats can create some matchup problems by spreading the floor with capable scorers who played off defensive commitments the Cyclones made on ball screens.
The first half seemed as if the two teams had moved into a rec league rather than Big 12 play. The 53-50 halftime lead K-State managed included 21 points from Kamau Stokes. He finished with 23, while the other junior in the Cats’ backcourt, Barry Brown, added 21.
“We’ve got guys,’’ Brown said, “who can get to the lane, shoot the mid-range with the floater, shoot the three, ball handle, play defense.’’
All those qualities Brown mentioned were displayed against the Cyclones. Everything came easily for the three juniors who key the Wildcats. Namely the points Wade poured in on 13-for-16 shooting.
“You can’t repeatedly give open shots. How many times did he get open shots?’’ Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said, before acknowledging that if Wade can “come in here and get 34, he’s a very good player.’’
One issue did arise for K-State and it was no surprise.
The Cats’ big men provided little assistance. Starter Makol Mawien played five minutes and was tagged with five fouls. Freshman Levi Stockard grabbed five boards, but also was in foul trouble. Mawdo Sallah logged just two minutes. James Love, who only began practicing the past couple of weeks, played briefly when he was not supposed to even unsnap his warmups.
“We’ve got to figure out which big is going to be there, be solid, know what’s going on and give us a little depth,’’ K-State coach Bruce Weber said.
Tough time, now that conference play has started, to develop an inside force who can consistently help on the boards and protect the rim.
K-State came in with a rebounding margin of plus-2 after playing a weak nonconference schedule and managed to outrebound Iowa State by one.
The best lineup for the Cats was when Wade manned the five-spot, but still drifted outside to the arc, where he went 6-for-8. That is fine against the smaller Cyclones, but against the best of the Big 12 bigs, the Cats could have trouble inside.
Still, they could pose problems by going small and relying on savvy experience from their guards, Stokes and Brown. If those three are on, look out. If a couple of them struggle to produce, the Cats better defend.
“I feel defensively we can switch a lot of things because of our versatility,’’ Weber added. “Same thing on offense. We have a lot of guys who can do multiple things, so it will be tough for teams to stop us.
“(Iowa State) tried to switch it, they tried to trap the ball screens and our guys, I thought, made great reads, especially in the second half going to the hoop when we needed it. Our guys executed things and made a lot of great decisions.’’
That will be a must moving forward. Especially with No. 7 West Virginia (12-1) bringing its defensive mentality into Bramlage Coliseum for a 4 p.m. game Monday.
Weber, quite the author of anything that can be reflected on a chart or chalkboard, wrote this message in the locker room at Iowa State: Dare to be Special.
For one night, with a 78-point salvo from a key trio of juniors and one performance that topped 30, Kansas State produced a 16-point road romp in its league opener.
The showing was anything but typical. Much to Weber’s delight, it was special, particularly in Hilton, but better opponents demand the Cats remain humble and focused.