Bruce Weber smiled when he asked reporters if they had seen tape of the final play of Kansas State’s 68-66 win at Georgia on Friday night.
Weber wasn’t sure if goaltending could have been called on his Wildcats, 6-1, when Bulldogs guard J.J. Frazier missed a three-pointer for the win at the buzzer.
He might have wanted confirmation K-State won on the road, too.
“I told the guys all we have to do is win by one — we won by two,” Weber said.
The Wildcats lost 13 of 15 games away from Manhattan last season and hadn’t won a true non-conference road game since December 8, 2012 (at George Washington).
They had a bad look early in their first road test of this season when they fell behind Georgia, 3-3, by 12 points in the first half on Friday.
Then the Wildcats stopped settling for threes and started getting defensive stops.
It helped that Dean Wade and Kamau Stokes weren’t around for any of those losses last season, too.
The freshman duo combined for 23 second-half points. That included two jumpers by Wade that were Kansas State’s last four points of the game.
Both of those shots came after timeouts, but Wade, who tied his career high with 17 points, wasn’t necessarily the first or second option on either play, including the Wildcats’ go-ahead bucket with 4 seconds remaining.
“I don’t really think so, honestly,” said Wade, a forward from St. John, Kan. “We ran the play, but the play didn’t work out. So we just played after that.”
He swished both shots on passes from junior Wesley Iwundu, who finished with 14 points and had no hesitation in handing over the game’s biggest moments to Wade.
“It’s funny because when we do last second situations in practice he’s made big shots in practice,” Weber said of Wade. “You’ve got to give credit for a freshman. We talked about being confident, make the plays, don’t worry about losing or worry about winning.”
The Wildcats’ balanced scoring from the first six games continued on Friday.
Four Wildcats scored in double figures. At least two scorers have reached 10 or more points in each game this season.
Wade, Stokes, Iwundu and senior Justin Edwards were the usual suspects, accounting for 56 of K-State’s 68 points (82 percent).
“All the things we’ve been preaching, it all kind of came to fruition,” Weber said. “Keep being tough and stay together.”
It didn’t come easy.
Stokes hit his first two shots but picked up his second foul and headed to the bench 6 minutes into the game. Wade missed his first five looks and went to the locker room at halftime with only one point.
Edwards and Iwundu picked up the early slack, and Wade and Stokes returned in the second half and played as if the first 20 minutes never happened.
“The biggest thing that we took from this is we have to stay engaged throughout the whole game because when we’re on the road the fans play a big role, it gets loud and we have to keep our composure,” Stokes said.
The lead changed 11 times and the score was tied on eight occasions, all in the last 13 minutes of the game.
For a team with seven freshmen and a recent track record of failing in these spots, the Wildcats moved forward in a positive way by making big plays in the closing minutes.
“Nobody wants to have a bad plane ride home, and we came out here and got it done,” Stokes said. “Now we can go and enjoy ourselves.”