MANHATTAN — Kansas State’s Barry Brown played the role of team leader, role model and hero. He also willingly accepted the title of goat, even if he didn’t fully deserve it.
And he did all that in the past nine days.
So if anyone can speak to the Wildcats’ frame of mind following Saturday’s 73-72 loss at Kansas, it most certainly would be Brown, the same guy who scored 38 points last Wednesday but three days later missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer and failed to execute the final play as designed.
“We’re going to be fine,” Brown said after the KU setback. “It’s just a tough loss. We’re going to bounce back after this like we did our last loss. Get in the gym and focus on our next game. That’s that. We’ve dealt with some tough losses and we’ve bounced back, so it’s not going to be anything different.”
The Wildcats’ first opportunity to prove that comes at 8 p.m. Tuesday, and it’s another doozy of a test. K-State (12-5, 2-3 Big 12) will be host to No. 4 Oklahoma (14-2, 4-1) and virtuoso freshman Trae Young as the Wildcats continue plowing through a rugged stretch that features five ranked teams in six games.
Young, quite simply, is the most dynamic and explosive player in college basketball. The 6-foot-2 guard leads the nation in scoring (30.1 points) and assists (10.0) and is coming off a season-high 43-point outing in a 102-97 overtime win against TCU.
Young also contributed 11 rebounds, 10 3-pointers and seven assists in the win, making him the only major-conference player in the past 20 years to post 40 points, 10 rebounds and 10 treys in a single game, according to ESPN.
The former McDonald’s All-American scored 15 and 22 in the Sooners’ first two games of the season against Omaha and Ball State, respectively. He hasn’t been held to fewer than 26 points since then.
“Sometimes you wonder, is he even human?” said OU junior teammate Christian James, who hit a key 3-pointer at the end of regulation against TCU.
Like it or not, the Wildcats will witness those super-human talents up close on Tuesday. But while trying to find a way to at least slow Young will be key in their attempt to return to .500 in Big 12 play, the Cats also must bury their disappointing KU finish.
Wade, who led K-State with 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting, insisted he and his teammates were far from defeated — despite the final numbers that lit up the Allen Fieldhouse scoreboard.
“You’ve just got to move on,” Wade said. “We’ve got a lot of big games to play, so we’ve got to move on and make the most of the rest of the season.”
The OU contest could be among the biggest. The Sooners have won 12 of 13 games, lead the nation in scoring at 93.6 points per game and enter the week tied with KU, Texas Tech and West Virginia atop the league standings at 4-1.
In addition to Young, James averages 12.4 points and freshman Brady Manek averages 11.3. Both James and Manek rank among the Big 12’s leaders in 3-point percentage, with Manek hitting at a 44 percent clip and James making 43 percent of his attempts. Khadeem Lattin also ranks third in the league with 36 blocks for OU.
No easy task, especially for a Wildcat group that continues to adjust to the loss of junior guard Kamau Stokes, who suffered a foot injury Jan. 6 at Texas Tech.
Then again, in a league featuring five ranked teams there really aren’t many easy tasks.
“We’ve talked about surviving in this league every game,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “You’ve got to go to the next game. We could have quit after Kam went down; the guys didn’t. They’ve actually probably got closer, tougher, stronger.
“Now we’ve got to come back with more vengeance on Tuesday.”
NO. 4 OKLAHOMA
AT KANSAS STATE
TIPOFF: 8 p.m. Tuesday, Bramlage Coliseum, Manhattan
RECORDS: Oklahoma 14-2, 4-1 Big 12; Kansas State 12-5, 2-3
TV/RADIO: ESPNU/WIBW-AM (580)
NEXT: TCU at Kansas State, 3 p.m. Saturday
NO. 4 OKLAHOMA (14-2, 4-1 Big 12)
P Player; Ht.; Cl.; Pts.; Reb.
G Trae Young; 6-2; Fr.; 30.1; 10.0*
G Christian James; 6-4; Jr.; 12.4; 4.3
G Rashard Odomes; G; Jr.; 6.1; 2.9
F Brady Manek; 6-9; Fr.; 11.3; 5.3
F Khadeem Lattin; 6-9; Sr.; 7.9; 7.1
KANSAS STATE (12-5, 2-3 Big 12)
P Player; Ht.; Cl.; Pts.; Reb.
G Cartier Diarra; 6-4; Fr.; 5.1; 1.4
G Barry Brown; 6-3; Jr.; 16.9; 2.7
G Xavier Sneed; 6-5; So.; 11.4; 4.4
F Dean Wade; 6-10; Jr.; 14.6; 6.5
F Makol Mawien; 6-9; So.; 5.7; 3.4