When Iowa State defeated Kansas State at Hilton Coliseum last month, Matt Thomas stole the show.
The senior guard drained seven three-pointers for the Cyclones on his way to a game-high 25 points. He got so hot from the outside that the Wildcats extended their defense in the second half specifically to cool him down.
It’s been a while since any K-State player has had that kind of impact on a game.
“We need somebody to be special on our team, jump up and have four or five threes and make some big plays,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said Tuesday. “Teams have done it against us. Now we need to return the favor.”
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The Wildcats could certainly use a banner day from one of their primary contributors as they prepare for a 6 p.m. rematch with the Cyclones on Wednesday at Bramlage Coliseum.
No K-State player has scored more than 26 points in a game, and that came from senior forward D.J. Johnson back on Nov. 26 in a 69-68 loss to Maryland. No one has scored more than 22 since. With a roster filled with five capable, but not dominant, scorers, K-State’s leading scorer fails to crack 15 points in some games.
That may need to change as the Wildcats embark on their final six games, especially with Johnson questionable to play Wednesday as he recovers from a sprained ankle. Weber said he is feeling better and starting to run again, but Johnson made no prediction on his playing status. He was unable to play against West Virginia on Saturday, and K-State suffered its most lopsided defeat.
“Hopefully I will be ready to play on Wednesday,” Johnson said. “It will probably be a game-time decision.”
If he is unable to go, K-State will look to sophomore Dean Wade to be special.
Wade played well when K-State upset Baylor on the road, scoring 12 points, and he was even better when K-State lost narrowly to Kansas, scoring 20 points, but he disappeared against West Virginia without Johnson by his side.
“It was different,” Wade said. “I didn’t like it too much. It was pretty hard playing without him, and made me appreciate him a lot more.”
Weber liked what Wade did against Kansas, creating mismatches against smaller defenders inside and forcing KU center Landen Lucas to chase him outside the paint. He was disappointed with Wade against West Virginia, but knows he is capable of a bounce-back effort.
“We tried to play through him and have him be a passer, but he didn’t get as many looks as we would have liked,” Weber said, “and I didn’t think he played as strong going to the basket as we would have liked him to. But if you follow the stats, when he plays well usually we have success as a team.”
The opportunity for success is about to present itself.
K-State remains on the NCAA Tournament bubble after going 1-2 against a trio of top-10 teams, and the schedule softens with the final six games area against unranked opposition.
“These next six games,” Wade said, “are big for us.”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett