Hoping to learn from recent history, Cats aim to push forward following ‘magic-level’ win vs. Oklahoma

Kansas State players, including Barry Brown (5), celebrate with fans following Tuesday night’s 87-69 upset against No. 4 Oklahoma in Manhattan. Brown scored a game-high 24 points in the Wildcats’ win. [Orlin Wagner/The Associated Press]

MANHATTAN — After the chorus of “OVER-RATED” chants had rained down on Oklahoma’s Trae Young and after Kansas State’s players had finished celebrating with fellow students Tuesday in the Bramlage Coliseum stands, Bruce Weber’s mind flashed back to a similar moment not all that long ago.

 

Feb. 6, 2016: K-State 80, No. 1 Oklahoma 69.

If any singular thought will bring Weber and the Wildcats back to earth following their impressive 87-69 dismantling of the No. 4 Sooners, the aftermath of that 2016 triumph should do it. For as thrilling as that win was, it did nothing to save the Wildcats’ season.

K-State followed with losses in five of its next six games and six of its next eight, the only victories coming against Big 12 bottom-feeder TCU. That stretch more than any other defined the Wildcats’ 17-16 season, a campaign that ended with no postseason.

Weber still remembers celebrating the 2016 win against OU at a friend’s house. He also remembers watching TV analysts debate the NCAA Tournament prospects of K-State and Notre Dame, which beat No. 3 North Carolina 80-76 that very same Saturday.

According to Weber, every TV pundit agreed: Notre Dame’s chances of making The Dance were greater than those of his Wildcats.

The worst part about it? The pundits were right.

“We didn’t keep going,” Weber said. “That will be my message (Wednesday) when I text (the players).

“Now we can’t let that happen. We’ve got to keep moving forward and progress. It’s great to beat them (the Sooners), but we’re going to have a whole bunch of other top-rated teams coming up.”

Starting Saturday when No. 24 TCU visits the Little Apple.

If the Wildcats (13-5, 3-3 Big 12) want to prevent that 2016 historical snapshot from repeating itself, Tuesday night’s game should serve as a nice blueprint.

K-State was brilliant for most of the night, prompting Weber to call it a “magic-level” performance at least three times during his postgame news conference. With a nice blend of drives and kick-outs, the Wildcats shot 56.5 percent from the field, 73.1 percent during a ridiculously efficient second half and were 9 of 17 on 3-point tries.

Barry Brown (24 points), Dean Wade (21), Cartier Diarra (16) and Xavier Sneed (13) all shot better than 50 percent.

“People are attacking, being aggressive,” said Wade, who was 9-for-16 overall and 7-for-9 in the final 20 minutes. “It just kind of flows. We’re flowing really nice right now, so hopefully we can keep it flowing through the Big 12.”

As good as the Wildcats were on offense, their defense was equally effective. Brown and the Wildcats held OU’s Young to 20 points and six assists. That’s 10 points and four assists below his nation-best averages.

The Wildcats limited the Sooners (14-3, 4-2) to 41.9 percent shooting as a team and forced 20 total turnovers, OU’s most this season. Brown had three steals while Diarra, Sneed and Wade each had two.

Weber also praised forward Makol Mawien for his ball-screen defense and help out top against Young.

“They’re as good as any team in the country. They’re special,” Weber said of the Sooners. “Their team is a Final Four team, I really believe they have that opportunity.

“Our guys did a great job of staying there (defensively). We talked about loading up, staying in the passing lanes.”

Now, as Weber noted, the Wildcats must use the outing as a momentum-builder so they avoid a repeat of two years ago.

Saturday’s contest against TCU marks the end of a six-game stretch featuring five games against ranked teams. But in a league that boasts four teams in the top 10 and five among the top 24, Weber realizes plenty of potential potholes exist.

“We’ve talked all year about this league; it’s so good,” the sixth-year Wildcat coach said. “It’s just survival. I’ve talked to them about being responsible, and if they’re responsible and do what they need to do, then we’ll survive each game and we’ll have success. I think that’s the main thing, coming back, being prepared.”

For the record, the Wildcats already seem to get it — with or without the 2016 reminder.

“We’ve got to carry this through the Big 12 because the Big 12’s so strong this year again,” Wade said. “We just have to play like this every game.”

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