The day may come when Kansas State misses Kamau Stokes on the basketball court, but it hasn’t happened yet.
K-State defeated Oklahoma State 86-82 on Wednesday at Bramlage Coliseum without its starting point guard thanks to some heroics from Barry Brown and Cartier Diarra.
Brown, a junior shooting guard, played as if he was trying to win the game all by himself and scored a career-high 38. Diarra, a redshirt freshman, took over at point guard and executed like a veteran, scoring a career-high 17 points on top of four rebounds and four assists.
The Wildcats needed someone to step up with Stokes out indefinitely, watching from the sideline with crutches under his arms and a medical boot on his left foot. Brown and Diarra embraced the challenge.
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This was a gotta-have-it game for K-State (12-4, 2-2 Big 12) and it took care of business by evening its conference record against Oklahoma State (11-5, 1-3).
Brown made the biggest contributions. Though he has been K-State’s leading scorer all season, he picked up the pace and attacked the rim with much more aggression than usual.
He scored on set plays, he created for himself, he made step-back three-pointers and he converted tough shots in transition. At one point, he stole a pass at midcourt, found himself all alone with three defenders to beat and still found a way to score.
His highlight, though, came on a sprint to the basket against Oklahoma State star Jeffrey Carroll. Brown stripped the ball from him near midcourt, outran him to the rim and made a twisting layup while being fouled. The bucket gave him 20 points and K-State the lead with 15:37 remaining.
It was a sign of things to come.
But he had help. Most of it came from Diarra. All eyes were on him as he entered the starting lineup for the first time at point guard. Stokes was averaging 13.4 points and 4.6 assists. Could he duplicate those numbers? Could he come close? Ho w differently would he play?
In the end, he delivered a fine stat line. He made 6 of 12 shots and was active in all areas, especially defense. Losing just three turnovers was also a plus.
If Diarra was nervous, it didn’t show. He did little in K-State’s first 15 games, averaging 4.3 points and 1.5 assists, but his production improved tremendously as his minutes climbed.
Xavier Sneed was another factor. The sophomore wing had a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Brandon Averette scored 22 points and Carroll had 20 for the Cowboys, but it wasn’t enough.
For a while, it looked like Oklahoma State might find a way to steal a road game in Manhattan. It rallied from an early 27-18 deficit to lead 34-33 at halftime and fought back from one of Brown’s scoring spurts to tie the score at 58 midway through the second half.
The Cowboys didn’t go down easy, but the Wildcats made enough plays to win.
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett