KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas State Wildcats nearly learned the hard way this week that life without Dean Wade might be more challenging than they thought.

The question now is how quickly they can adjust to the absence of their all-Big 12 forward.

After rallying from a 16-point deficit to edge Southern Miss at home Wednesday, the Wildcats (8-2) face a much more formidable test at 6 p.m. Saturday when they take on Vanderbilt (7-2) in the Wildcat Classic at the Sprint Center.

"We tried to scramble without Dean in two days," Weber said of Wade, who tore a tendon in his foot last Saturday against Georgia State and could be sidelined for anywhere from three to eight weeks. "I don't know if the guys thought since last year it went so easy when we went on the (postseason) run that it was going to happen (again).

"But obviously it wasn't good, it wasn't smooth."

When Wade broke his foot last year and missed most of the postseason, K-State didn't skip a beat, advancing to the NCAA Tournament's Elite Eight. But even with all the major components back from that team, senior guard Barry Brown cautioned that coping without their conference preseason player of the year for an extended stretch will be difficult.

"We've just got to learn off a win," Brown said after the Southern Miss game. "We were a new team even from last year — added some new, different guys.

"With Dean out right now, we're back to a new team and we've just got to keep gelling and keep finding ways to score — put the ball in the basket and keep defending. He brought a lot to the table, and so we just have to all kind of step up and fill that void that he left behind."

Theoretically, that should have been easier against a small Southern Miss team that had no starter taller than 6-foot-6. Matching up against a much taller Vanderbilt team without the 6-10 Wade could be more problematic.

The Commodores list four starters at 6-7 and up, led by 6-10 freshman post Simisola Shittu, a 2018 McDonald's All-American who averages 15.1 points and 7.7 rebounds. Wade was averaging 13.6 points and a team-best 7.8 rebounds.

Instead of adding a big man to the lineup in Wade's place, Weber inserted sophomore guard Cartier Diarra alongside seniors Brown and Kamau Stokes. That pushed 6-5 junior Xavier Sneed into the power forward slot, where he grabbed a career-high 14 rebounds in the 55-51 victory over Southern Miss.

"Fourteen rebounds is big for anybody," Stokes said of Sneed. "But X had to play the four. He played it last year in the (NCAA) Tournament, so he was used to that, and we knew they crashed the glass, so we had somebody down there to step up and rebound the ball."

Against Vanderbilt, which is coming off an impressive 81-65 victory over Arizona State on Monday night, the Wildcats also will turn to junior forward Makol Mawien for increased production. The 6-9 Mawien is averaging 6.4 points and 4.1 rebounds, but along with Brown and Sneed he raised his game last year in Wade's absence.

It could be an opportunity as well for junior college transfer Austin Trice, who has seen his playing time drop precipitously of late. Trice has fallen behind Levi Stockard in the post rotation, logging a total of 12 minutes the last three games, and didn't get off the bench at all against Georgia State.

"He's got to play better," Weber said of the 6-7 Trice, who arrived with the reputation as a ferocious rebounder. "The other night (against Georgia State), he's not a great zone player. And (Wednesday), they're small — their four man was a guard — so that's a tough matchup for Austin. On Saturday, they're going to be bigger, so it will allow us to play a little big and give us some different looks with him and maybe Levi and some other guys."

Taking up the rebounding slack is just one challenge for the Wildcats with Wade out of the lineup. Against Southern Miss, they shot 30.8 percent and scored 19 points in the first half.

But Stokes came to the rescue, scoring 16 of his 18 points after intermission.

"Obviously the guys have got to play better," Weber said. "You win games when guys play well."