Two years ago, Kansas State coach Bruce Weber asked his players who was going to be his stopper on defense.
A scrawny freshman named Barry Brown immediately raised his hand. Weber blew it off at the time, but over the past three years Brown has turned into one of the best on-ball defenders in college basketball.
He proved that again on Friday night, scoring 18 points and helping ninth-seeded Kansas State’s defense stymie Marcus Foster and No. 8 Creighton’s high-powered offense in a 69-59 wire-to-wire victory.
“He has been in the office every day since Monday watching film on (Foster) because we knew how good he was and what he did,” Weber said. “… Obviously Barry did a great job on Marcus, who is a really good player. But all our guys, it was a team defense. When you hold them to 59 it’s pretty impressive.”
Creighton came into the game ranked 10th in scoring in Division I at 84.3 points per game, but its 59 points tied a season low.
“We have been good on defense this year and we played some of the best teams in the country,” Weber said.
Kansas State (23-11) advanced to the round of 32 for the first time since 2012 despite playing without leading scorer Dean Wade, who is still recovering from a stress fracture in his left foot. Wade had been expected to play after suffering a stress fracture in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament, but never got on the floor.
His teammates picked him up, particularly on defense.
The Bluejays (21-12) were limited to 33.8 percent shooting from the field, including 26 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.
“I thought they played a heck of a game, and defensively they were very disruptive, especially early in the game and I think forced us into some uncharacteristic decisions,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said.
Foster was held scoreless in the first 29 1/2 minutes and finished with five points on 2-of-11 shooting against his former team.
Foster was thrown off the Kansas State team after the 2015 season for multiple violations of team rules, but said earlier this week this game was more about advancing than any type of revenge. He took responsibility for his mistakes, saying it was something that he needed to go through to grow up.
After reigniting his career at Creighton, Foster was averaging 20.3 points coming into the game. But never found his mojo on Friday night.
“They were collapsing the paint hard when I drove, and they were attaching to me as soon as I crossed half court so I couldn’t get the ball,” Foster said. “(They) were just giving me hard looks all night, and I really just couldn’t find a rhythm.”
Brown said the film study sessions helped.
“I was just trying to see where he picks his spots, what he likes to do on offense, and kind of memorizing their plays a little bit,” Brown said. “So I kind of knew the play before they ran it through and so I was just jumping a lot of stuff and kind of denying him a little bit and it worked out.”
Mike McGuirl added 17 points and Kamau Stokes had 11 for the Wildcats.
Kansas State: The Wildcats showed great tenacity on defense. They also shot well from long distance, making 9 of 19 3-pointers which would bode well if they can repeat that in the second round.
Creighton: It was another disappointing NCAA Tournament appearance for the Bluejays, who simply couldn’t make any shots when the needed to. Along with Foster, Khyri Thomas only managed nine points. Mitch Ballock had 16 points and eight rebounds to lead Creighton.
CATCHING UP: Weber stopped briefly to talk to Foster after the game.
“I have nothing against him,” Weber said. “… I want guys to be successful. I said congratulations. I’m happy (for him). I hope you got your head on straight. He had a heck of a career. … I’m proud that I helped him get on the right path.”
WADE’S STATUS: Weber said Wade was just too sore to play, but wouldn’t rule out him playing limited minutes on Sunday.
“We’ll see if it improves and he wants to go and give it a shot,” Weber said. “He wants to be part of it. If it helps us have success and move on, I’m sure Dean will be there giving his all.”
FAST START: The Wildcats jumped out to 10-2 lead behind Stokes, who scored the game’s first seven points. They never trailed.
Creighton cut the lead to two after Mitch Ballock scored seven straight points for the Bluejays to open the second half. But Kansas State stayed ahead and McGuirl completed a huge four-point play after being fouled on a baseline jumper to give the Wildcats an 11-point lead with 7:13 remaining in the game.
Kansas State: Will face the winner of No. 1 Virginia and No. 16 UMBC on Sunday.