It's difficult for Kansas State basketball coach Bruce Weber to describe how good Cartier Diarra has been since taking over as the Wildcats' point guard last week.
Diarra, a redshirt freshman, had 17 points and four assists in a win over Oklahoma State and then followed that up with 18 points and four rebounds during a narrow loss at Kansas.
"You couldn't ask for more from a guy who has started two games," Weber said.All eyes were on Diarra when Kamau Stokes broke his left foot on a freak play against Texas Tech. Could he duplicate the production, leadership and ball security of a veteran with NCAA Tournament experience? Could he even come close?
Stokes (13.4 points, 4.6 assists) was leading the team in assists and three-pointers. Without him, most expected K-State to take a step back.
But the Wildcats haven't missed Stokes yet.
CBB rankings: Virginia up to No. 2; Oklahoma climbs in new AP Top 25
"If Cartier plays like that," Weber said, unable to finish his thought while looking at a stat sheet, "He had 17 the other night, 18 now ... That is more than Kam averaged."
Diarra was at his best against Kansas, aggressively driving to the rim for layups when his team badly needed points. The Wildcats were in trouble when the Jayhawks pulled ahead 49-38 early in the second half on Saturday, but they battled back to take the lead behind their new point guard.
In a span of 2 minutes, 19 seconds, Diarra got white-hot and scored 11 straight for K-State. The scoring binge started with a three from the wing, then he made a driving layup in traffic, an and-one layup over Devonte Graham and another three in transition.
Dean Wade made a jumper on the next possession to tie the game at 55-55, and KU coach Bill Self needed a timeout.
"He was great," Self said of Diarra. "He was terrific and he controlled the game the second half for them."
Self continued to praise Diarra, saying: "We've got to see him three more years."
There's a good chance Diarra improves over that time. He is still growing as a basketball player. A mostly overlooked recruit from Florence, S.C., he got a late start in the sport and gains knowledge with every game.
His lack of experienced showed early in the year, when he averaged 4.3 points, 1.5 assists and 1.3 rebounds as a reserve. But he has always played with confidence. His hot streak against Kansas didn't seem unusual for him.
He expects more of the same when K-State faces Oklahoma at 8 p.m. on Tuesday at Bramlage Coliseum.
"I feel like that all the time," Diarra said. "I just need to be more aggressive throughout the whole game, all 40 minutes, and I will have games like this a lot."
This article is written by Kellis Robinett from The Wichita Eagle and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.