DAYTON, Ohio - Kansas State defender D.J. Johnson rotated away from the right wing and drifted toward John Collins, who was posting up near the left side of the basket.
Instead of lobbing the ball to a double-teamed Collins, Wake Forest's Keyshawn Woods fired a skip pass to Austin Arians, who drilled a 3-pointer from his wide-open spot on the right side.
Collins commanded plenty of attention from the Wildcats' defense. His 26-point, nine-rebound performance in a First Four game Tuesday night wasn't enough to eliminate Kansas State, which will head to Sacramento, Calif., thanks to its 95-88 victory in an NCAA Tournament opener.
A member of the All-ACC first team, Collins arrived in Dayton with season averages of 18.9 points and 9.8 rebounds. With Kansas State's defense focused on stopping him, he turned 23 offensive touches inside the 3-point arc into an outing in which he shot 9 of 13 from the floor, drew six fouls en route to an 8-for-8 showing from the line, committed two turnovers and passed out of two double-teams in a career-high 36 minutes.
"Early on, they threw a lot of bodies in his direction,” Wake coach Danny Manning said. “We didn’t help him out much by how we shot the basketball. He’s played games all year long where teams make decisions that they’re going to take him away, that they’re not going to let you score the ball. That’s why it’s a team sport. I thought he showed good patience in continuing to post up and have a presence.”
If it was the final college game for Collins, a 6-foot-10 sophomore whose NBA draft stock has risen dramatically this season, he played with a familiar efficiency and effectiveness on the offensive end.
During the postgame press conference, Collins fielded one question about the stay-or-go decision he faces in the near future.
“It’s not something I’d like to comment on right now,” he said.
Collins managed only eight offensive touches inside the arc during a first half in which Kansas State, which has a top-30 national ranking in defensive efficiency, bracketed and double-teamed him. Wake teammates attempted to give him the ball more frequently, but it wasn't easy, as point guard Bryant Crawford committed one turnover on a tough-to-catch pass in transition and also threw the ball away as he backed away from a perimeter trap.
After securing four inside touches in the first 4:45, Collins had just one more in the next 12:45, ending that quiet stretch with a tip-in off one of his four offensive rebounds.
"They were definitely making a concerted effort to try to deny me the ball, try to force me to catch the ball as far away from the post as possible," Collins said. "Obviously, we got some chances in the second half, but it was definitely an effort on their end to deny me the ball."
The Deacons (19-14) were more successful in the second half, as Collins capitalized on 13 touches during the next 16 minutes, including three close-range looks in the first 2:13.
Collins scored three times by dunking or laying up alley-oop passes from Crawford in the second half.
“First two or three minutes, I was a little sluggish (defensively), and he got three quick baskets,” Johnson said. “Everything else was from the free-throw line. He got me once on one dunk, and we were laughing about it going back down the court. He’s a great player.”
As well as he played offensively, Collins wasn't much of a factor as a rim protector for a Wake defense that allowed Kansas State to convert 12 of its 13 shots that were categorized as layups or dunks.
The Wildcats (21-13) had a 30-12 advantage with points in the paint as they built a 57-49 lead on the scoreboard, and they accounted for 42 of the 66 interior points while shooting 66.0 percent from the field.
"We had a couple of mix-ups on the defensive end, on the big-big roll and replace, and just didn't communicate enough on the defensive end," Crawford said. "When we did get stops, we let them get another chance by giving them offensive rebounds and not boxing out."