Kansas State faced the two teams at the bottom of the Big 12 in the same week late in the season, now with the second game against Kansas rapidly approaching. The two games could have been seen as easy trap games for the first place Wildcats.
The Wildcats did not overlook the Oklahoma State Cowboys, though. They defeated the Cowboys in an 85-46 rout on Saturday.
It was essential to get the struggling Cowboys down early, and K-State did just that. The Wildcats began the game with a 15-0 run and did not relinquish the lead.
Thanks to the early lead, the Wildcats got a rare opportunity to rest players for the upcoming high stakes match-up with Kansas on Monday.
Senior guard Barry Brown talked about how the Wildcats responded to the talk of a possible trap game.
“I felt like we did well,” Brown said. “We had a pretty good start and gained a big lead of fifteen to zero at one point. We just kept our foot on the gas and we didn’t let up on them on defense or on offense.”
The Wildcats held the Cowboys to just 18 points in the first half and 46 in the game. That is a season low for Oklahoma State.
The Cowboys have struggled this season after having three players dismissed from the team in January and adding six walk-ons to fill the spots. The Wildcats took full advantage of OSU’s struggles, allowing the starters to get some much-needed rest.
Wildcat fans got a taste of the future with freshman guard Shaun Neal-Williams, sophomore Mike McGuirl and junior forward Austin Trice, who all got significant minutes and reaching career highs.
Trice finished tied for the leading scorer in the afternoon with a career-high 12 points, including shooting 6-6 from the free throw line. Neal-Williams also scored a career-high 10 points. The bench contributed 38 points to the winning effort.
Neal-Williams played a career-high 28 minutes.
“Shaun [Neal-Williams] took advantage of getting minutes since Kamau [Stokes] was out and did some nice things for us,” Weber said.
Trice provided K-State with 18 minutes at the forward position. Trice, who entered the game shooting 24 percent from the free throw line, went 6-for-6 on such shots.
“It was great for him after whatever he was shooting from the free throw line to go 6-for-6,” Weber said. “He was the leading scorer, and it was a nice boost for us. It was good for our guys, we got something out of everybody.”
The dominating first half gave the Wildcats a chance to rest key players down the stretch. Senior forward Dean Wade and senior guard Kamau Stokes, who have been battling injuries throughout the week, were given a considerable amount of rest.
Wade was limited after collecting two fouls early in the first half, but it was not a necessity to have him on the floor. Wade played 11 minutes in the afternoon and did not return after he collected his third in the second half after only scoring six points.
Stokes sat out the second half, sitting at the trainer’s table icing his foot for the majority of the half. He scored 11 points in 18 minutes of work.
“Kam [Stokes] hasn’t practiced much, and he was the one who got us going with some threes and some layup and assists from him,” Weber said. “His foot hurt a bit, so we got him out, and we were fortunate to be up and not play him the whole second half.”
K-State will have to prepare for a second battle with Kansas with a share of the Big 12 title almost surely on the line. The two will square off at 8 p.m. Monday on ESPN.