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How Arthur Kaluma lifted K-State to a much-needed victory with 28 points against BYU

You won’t find any college basketball coach in the country who speaks more highly of Arthur Kaluma than BYU head man Mark Pope.

The Cougars have gone up against Kaluma three different times under Pope, and Kaluma has filled up the stat sheet against them all three times. First came a 27-point outburst when Kaluma was playing at Creighton. Then, a few weeks ago, Kaluma followed that up with 18 points in a game at BYU. But he saved his best for last when he led Kansas State to an 84-74 victory over BYU by scoring a career-high 28 points .

The matchup problems he can create with his 6-foot-7 frame and his NBA athleticism created more nightmare fuel for this familiar opponent.

“He’s a really talented player,” Pope said afterward. “He was great getting to the free-throw line tonight, and he shot the ball great from the 3-point line. He’s really physical and explosive, and he can extend the play with Euro steps. He is a terrific player.”

Believe it or not. Pope wasn’t done.

“He is complicated because he has a lot of parts to his game that are dangerous,” Pope said. “He’s a really, really talented player, and he’s a veteran player and he’s playing at a really high level. He is a three-level scorer, and he’s tremendous at earning himself possession at the free-throw line. He made shots tonight. He is just a really challenging cover for everybody.”

Perhaps a performance like this will give Kaluma the jolt of confidence he needs to play more aggressively in every single game.

Kaluma has off-nights just like everybody else, and he hasn’t been very efficient for the Wildcats over the past month. But that changed against BYU when he scored 28 points on just 11 shots. He also grabbed 10 rebounds for a double-double.

BYU doesn’t have anyone on its roster with enough athleticism to stay in front of Kaluma without fouling, and he took advantage of that for 40 minutes. He was a mismatch nightmare, and the No. 25 Cougars (19-8, 7-7 Big 12) had no answers for him.

Kaluma’s big game allowed K-State to post its highest points total in a Big 12 game this season.

This was a much-needed result for the Wildcats (16-11, 6-8 Big 12), who badly needed a victory to increase their chances of receiving a bye at the Big 12 Tournament and to improve their postseason resume ... even if the NIT still feels more likely than the NCAA Tournament.

Kaluma was the hero.

“When you see 28 and 10, that could be an every night thing for Arthur,” K-State guard Tylor Perry said. “When he’s going sometimes you just have to get out of his way and let him cook. That’s what he’s capable of doing on any given night. It’s a bonus to have him on my side, and it’s a blessing to play alongside him. I think he could have gone for 35 or 40 if you ask me.”

There is some truth in that statement. Kaluma had 25 points midway through the second half and opted to defer to his teammates down the stretch as BYU shifted more and more defensive focus to him.

Question is: What is it about playing BYU that brings out the best in Kaluma?

Well, the answer is simple. BYU is made up of a roster of older players who win the fundamentals, shooting and teamwork. But the Cougars have never been known for athleticism. That is why they run a bunch of creative sets and rank inside the top 10 nationally in several offensive categories. But matching up with long, athletic wings on defense is not their forte.

Kaluma has taken advantage of that before. He did so once again in this game.

Not only did he put up an impressive stat line, he did so with impressive efficiency. Kaluma made 8 of 11 shots from the field, including a pair of 3-pointers. But he did most of his damage at the free-throw line, where he connected on 10 of 12. Add on the 10 rebounds and this was easily the best game of his college career.

“I just came out to play today,” Kaluma said. “I felt like I had a different aggression.”

Kaluma won’t get a rematch with BYU unless it happens at the Big 12 Tournament. His goal moving forward will be finding a way to play this way against other opponents. That would make the Wildcats hard to beat.