Barry Brown respects Buddy Hield. He wants to get that out of the way immediately.
Brown doesn’t think Kansas State will face a comparable scorer this season, a player of the year candidate capable of producing against any defense.
Still, Brown, a K-State freshman guard, has confidence in his own abilities. So as he prepares to defend Hield — an Oklahoma senior who just scored 46 points at Kansas — for the first time on Saturday in Norman, Okla., he isn’t backing down from the challenge.
“I don’t want to be cocky or nothing, but that is just not going to happen,” Brown said. “Forty-six points, I mean. … We watched it. We know that that’s their guy. He is going to get his shots off. He is going to score. We just have to contain him and keep him way under that by playing good help-side defense.”
It won’t be easy. Nothing will be in this game.
Oklahoma, ranked No. 2 in The Associated Press poll and No. 1 in the coaches’ poll, will play in front of a sellout crowd ready for an encore of the way the Sooners played Monday, falling just short against the Jayhawks in three overtimes. Hield averages 26.3 points, but Jordan Woodard, Isaiah Cousins and Ryan Spangler all average more than 11.
K-State has played No. 6 North Carolina, No. 17 West Virginia and No. 21 Texas A&M this season, but Oklahoma could be a different animal.
“Carolina had great players, but I don’t think anyone on Carolina was a player like Buddy,” Brown said. “That is a test. I don’t think we have played someone who is going to keep coming at you, trying to get his shot off constantly. We haven’t played anyone like that. It’s going to be a tough environment. Carolina was tough, but we had the crowd advantage.
“Good players, good team, good coach, it will probably be our toughest game so far.”
Complicating matters further is the fact K-State swept Oklahoma a year ago, beating the Sooners with last-second shots at home and away.
Oklahoma is unlikely to overlook K-State.
“The guys are focused and they have a great deal of respect for Kansas State and the job Bruce Weber is doing,” said Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger, a former K-State player and coach. “They played West Virginia and Texas to the wire in their first two conference games and could have won both of them. Our guys realize that. They will be ready.”
The challenge is so difficult that it made Weber turn sarcastic.
“Just another cupcake game,” he said.
K-State’s upset hopes will begin on defense. The plan is for Wesley Iwundu and Brown to rotate defensively on Hield, with teammates occasionally providing double teams. But they will also have to keep an eye on the rest of Oklahoma’s lineup. The Sooners shoot 45.7 from three-point range. Any open Sooners player can hurt you.
Of course, the Wildcats are unlikely to win without improvement on offense, too. They have averaged 67.8 points in their last six games. The Sooners have scored at least 80 in all but two games — a 65-48 win against Wisconsin and a 78-55 victory against Villanova.
K-State will need more out of Dean Wade, Justin Edwards and Iwundu. The more they score, they less they have to defend.
“The biggest key is what we do offensively,” Weber said. “It’s like West Virginia. How do you worry about their press? You stop them on offense so they can’t press you. In this one we have to make sure they guard us and then we make them accountable on defense. They don’t play a lot of people. The more efficient we are on offense is going to help us on defense.”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett