MANHATTAN — Kansas State basketball didn't climb to the top of the Big 12 on its scoring prowess.
The numbers don't lie.
But during a seven-game conference winning streak that now has the team alone in first place, neither did it get there with defense alone.
"I think our offense is better than a lot of people think, but I could be a little biased I guess," said senior forward Dean Wade, whose return from a foot injury four games into the league season has coincided with an uptick for the Wildcats, now 17-5 overall and 7-2 in the Big 12 after opening with two losses. "We know how good our offense can be."
Throw out a nonconference clunker, a 65-53 loss Jan. 26 at Texas A&M in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, and the Wildcats have been quite respectable on offense during their conference winning streak. Though their 64.3-point average in league play puts them dead last, that number gone up to 67.3 in the seven victories, while they have held opponents to 58.7.
Much of the credit goes to Wade, who is shooting 51.7 percent overall since his return and a sizzling 54.5 percent from 3-point range. Also, senior point guard Kamau Stokes said he's back to full strength after battling his own foot issues.
"It's not just Dean, it's Kam getting healthy and just more weapons," K-State coach Bruce Weber said. "It spreads the defense, Dean's passing.
"He draws attention, they're coming for him and he plays off of it. I think the big thing is we've improved passing the basketball, getting in the paint, pushing the basketball, getting guys to run, doing some of that stuff."
Zone defenses, the Wildcats' kryptonite early in the season, have not been as much of an issue the last two games. Kansas effectively shut them down the last 10 minutes of the first half Tuesday night with a 2-3 zone, but the Wildcats solved the riddle in the second period and went on to win, 74-67.
"To me it's just attacking," Weber said. "We've got to be in attack more. ... In the second half we got into the gaps, got the ball inside and we went at them and made them guard us. And we pushed the ball."
Sure enough, the Wildcats shot 48 percent in the second half after going 38.7 percent in the opening period.
"Sometimes we get a little stagnant on offense, not really making cuts and things like that, so it kind of bogs us down every once in a while," said Wade, whose 14.1 points per game are second only to Barry Brown (15.5) on the team. "But right now, how we're playing on offense, everyone's moving, the ball has great energy — everyone's moving without the ball (and) we're just trying to get the best shot for the team."
The Wildcats are shooting just 42.8 percent from the floor in league play, but throw out the two losses to Texas and Texas Tech and that number goes up to 45.7. Ditto for their 3-point percentage, which climbs from 36.3 to 39.5 despite a 3-for-15 performance against TCU and 5-for-19 effort at Texas Tech.
"I think a lot of it has to do with just coming in and getting shots up on our own, but also just the ball movement, getting open, and shot selection has been huge for us," Wade said. "We're getting pretty open shots, and (they are) a lot easier to make than contested shots.
"Everyone's playing with such high confidence right now. Any shot anyone takes, I think everyone thinks it's going in, so that helps a lot."
Weber joked that he initially thought warm weather was the key to his team's improved perimeter shooting after they fared well in the Virgin Islands in November and knocked down a near-record 16 3-pointers last week against Oklahoma State on a balmy day in Stillwater. But then they hit 10 against KU on a chilly night, debunking that theory.
The ability to shoot KU out of its zone in the second half was especially encouraging, considering the fact that they travel to Baylor (15-7, 6-3 Big 12) on Saturday with the league lead on the line. The Bears are known for their 2-3 zone.
The solution, as it was against the Jayhawks, is pretty simple, according to Weber.
"Ball movement," Weber said, "getting it inside out, penetrating (and) kicking, swinging the basketball, getting open shots.
"And getting some layups, too. Just not settling on tough, quick 3s."