TOP KANSAS STATE PLAYER: Markquis Nowell
We can’t not give it to the New York native. Kansas State guard Markquis Nowell was electric in the NCAA Tournament once again and marveled the crowd at Madison Square Garden with more jaw-dropping passes to his K-State teammates.
That’s why he had 10 assists alone in the game’s first 20 minutes. Though Kansas State scored 43 points in the first half and led by five, he only scored five points. Most of the scoring was done by Keyontae Johnson, who poured in 14 points in the first frame.
Ish Massoud also cashed in a couple threes.
Nowell was back at it in the second half and doing it in dramatic fashion after injuring his right foot. He couldn’t put any weight on it immediately after the setback but received some medical treatment and tape and checked back in despite not being 100 percent.
Despite that, he continued to click for K-State and finished the game with a double-double that included 20 points and an NCAA Tournament record 19 assists (also a school record) in what was one of the best (maybe the best) basketball games I have ever seen in person.
ONE SURPRISE: Lack of defense
While I do believe that some of it was dictated by the way that the officials called the game, the defenses for both sides were lacking. Kansas State was leaving very good shooters open for three, more than usual, and the Spartans surrendered too many baskets at the rim.
Heck, K-State shot 56 percent from the field and 46 percent from the three-point line, and Michigan State was 49 percent from the field and 52 percent from beyond the arc.
ONE POSITIVE: Guts and toughness
Tough teams win those games. That is what the Kansas State contingent has told us all year. Head coach Jerome Tang has implored that to his team and they are extremely bought in to that notion as indicated by them repeating the message.
There were times when it could have been easy to fold. The Spartans took late leads, both in regulation and in the extra session. Nowell had an injury that took him off the floor for a few minutes. Yet, K-State didn’t blink.
ONE CONCERN: Rebounding and fouls
It was the second game in a row where Kansas State was overpowered pretty extensively on the glass. On the year, Michigan State wasn’t necessarily a team that was rebounding-oriented, but it is typically a hallmark of teams coached by Tom Izzo.
That’s why I had a feeling he probably would will his team to being very competitive on the glass. After all, he is a fantastic coach and knew that K-State would make it tough for them on their jump shots. The Spartans are a jump shooting team and the Wildcats defend it well.
Kansas State allowed 13 offensive rebounds and a few came in critical moments. The Spartans won second chance points 15-11. The Wildcats recovered on the glass in second half and overtime, actually, according to ksu_FAN.
Michigan State also went to the free throw line and converted, particularly in the first half. They got in the bonus and immediately took advantage. They were 9 of 9 from the charity stripe in the first half, and that is literally what allowed them to hang around because K-State was just 4 of 8.
The Spartans finished 18 of 22 from the free throw line, while Kansas State was 11 of 16.
That foul trouble had the Wildcats in foul trouble in the second half. Desi Sills fouled out and David N’Guessan, Cam Carter and Nae’Qwan Tomlin all added four. To be fair, the whistles were too much of a factor.
LOOKING AHEAD FOR KANSAS STATE: Elite Eight appearance
Congratulations, K-State. You’re headed to the Elite Eight where you’ll face either Tennessee or Florida Atlantic. The Wildcats have fallen in seven straight Elite Eight contests, for what it is worth and nine of the last 10.
Buckle up, fans.