With the blow of senior forward Dean Wade re-injuring his foot at the game against Oklahoma on March 9, the Wildcats were forced to start the Big 12 Tournament on Thursday without him.
From the start of the game against TCU, it was clear that Wade’s absence would prove to be an issue, but that allowed for other members of the squad to step up and prove that they can fill the holes just like they have done all season.
After the Wildcats’ quarterfinals win, head coach Bruce Weber said the team has continued to remain resilient, and while they didn’t show a lot of emotion at the start, they found a way to win.
Senior guard Barry Brown echoed his statement, saying “we just coasted” at the beginning following a Big 12 regular season win.
Junior forward Austin Trice earned his first start for the Wildcats by filling in for Wade. While Trice didn’t put any points on the board, he did provide some height on defense during the first half.
Sophomore guard Cartier Diarra made his first appearance in almost a month for the Wildcats, and it was well needed and appreciated. Diarra scored eight points and had five rebounds for the Wildcats in 29 minutes of play.
“He gave us some energy,” Weber said. “He definitely gave a great boost and that helped us penetrate the defense which was key.”
Another big contributor for the Cats was Levi Stockard. This is the first big game that Stockard has had in a while. He outscored his season average of four points per game, scoring eight points against TCU.
“He was very important,” senior guard Kamau Stokes said. “Coach always talks about guys stepping up, and he [Stockard] gave us post presence.”
While these guys have stepped up, they can’t back down now. It will be critical for the Wildcats to continue this strong showing as the bench will prove to be important moving forward. According to Weber, the bench is key.
The Wildcats will have a full week of basketball as they will face Iowa State at 7 p.m. Friday at the Sprint Center for the semifinals.