LUBBOCK, Texas — Kansas State turned to a small-ball lineup against Iowa State, in part due to foul trouble by the big men but also to take advantage of matchups.
It worked out quite well in a 16-point victory but that look didn’t fit the next game in a loss to West Virginia, which had a stronger inside presence.
Now, K-State faces a Texas Tech team that features a three-guard lineup so the small-ball look could resurface in the 3 p.m. tipoff Saturday.
“If we do, we’ll be fine,” K-State forward Dean Wade said. “Either way, I think we’ll be OK. Hopefully we don’t get in foul trouble like we have been with our bigs, but if we have to go small when they go small, I think we’ll be fine.
“They are a scary team. They are athletic, fast, they rebound hard and they have some depth on the bench. They’re playing great right now and hopefully we can go in there and play well.”
In the small-ball set for the Wildcats (11-3, 1-1 Big 12), Wade moves to the five-spot, Xavier Sneed is the four and the extra guard is junior Amaad Wainright or freshman Cartier Diarra.
“Amaad is still learning,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said of the junior college transfer. “He could be that glue guy, that energy guy to rebound, get a couple of layups, deflections. I told him if he’s got an open 3 shoot it but do all those other things. He could be a real important key for us if he can make that step where every game you know you’re getting that out of him.
“The last couple of games Cartier has started to pick it up again. I think he hit a little wall in December and he’s getting a little confidence back. We’re still learning and evolving, but it’s a tough stretch to learn and evolve.”
The No. 18 Red Raiders (13-1, 2-0) are coming off an 85-73 victory at Kansas and are expecting a sellout crowd at United Supermarkets Arena.
“I told our guys the day after the season ended last year — sooner than any of us would have liked — the key is we have to get better players and better coaches,” said Chris Beard, who led Tech to an 18-14 record in his first season. “I wasn’t talking about changing people, I was talking about the returning players getting better and being a better version of themselves. I really challenged myself and our coaches, too.
“Number two, our recruiting class has made an impact. All recruiting classes at this level get a bunch of pub on the internet and rankings and stars, but what’s really important is those guys you recruit actually getting on the court and helping you when they need to. Some schools have the luxury of guys developing over time and maybe being a good player by their second or third year, but we’re not there with our program. We needed these guys to step in and play and that’s what they’re doing.”
Defense and rebounding are the trademarks of this Tech team, and rebounding continues to be an issue for K-State.
“Their defense is drastically improved,” Weber said. “They’re putting pressure on you and swarming to the basketball. They do not let you get anything easy. Their numbers are some of the best in the country in field goal defense, points allowed. They have long, athletic guys who are playing hard and that makes it hard to score.
“They go small, too. There will be some opportunities when we can play small ball, but the big question is can we rebound when we do that.”