Markquis Nowell never lost hope, even though Kansas State’s roster was almost empty for a new coach and the Wildcats were selected last in the Big 12 poll.
He always had faith in “And he made me believe, remarked coach Jerome Tang.
And so, Kansas State found itself in this very unbelievable situation: travelling to Madison Square Garden in New York with a ticket for the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
Nowell scored 23 of his 27 points after halftime, and Kansas State overcame a dreadful start from outside by hitting a handful of crucial 3-pointers in topping Kentucky 75-69 in Sunday’s second round.
The Wildcats (25-9) have reached the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2018 thanks to Tang, who went from having only two players on the roster to having an equal amount of NCAA victories.
Dudes, said Tang. “We have guys. That is what is necessary. People really do get preoccupied with coaching and all of that. It is men.
On Thursday, the No. 7 seed Michigan State will play Kansas State in the East Region semifinals.
When the outside shots began falling, Kansas State was 2 for 17 after missing its first 13 3-point attempts. With 2:21 remaining, Nowell made a step-back three-pointer against Cason Wallace to close the gap to 60-59. Ismael Massoud then scored from the right wing to give his team a 64-62 lead.
With 1:23 remaining, Keyontae Johnson added another from that side close to the Kansas State bench, bringing the score to 67-62 and generating a jolt with a margin that seemed significant given that almost the entire second half had been played within four points.
The third-team Associated Press All-American and 5-foot-8 Nowell played a fearless floor game. Before to halftime, he contributed to two spectacular plays: a behind-the-back transition pass to Johnson for a slam, and an alley-oop to Nae’Qwan Tomlin on the baseline to close out the half.
He made three threes, including one with his left foot on the “March Madness” midcourt logo and one over Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe after going 0-for-13 to begin the game.
For sixth-seeded Kentucky (22-12), who led by eight points early in the second half, Tshiebwe had 25 points and 18 rebounds. But, the Wildcats were unable to increase their advantage or hit their own huge outside shots (4 for 20).
Coach John Calipari of Kentucky remarked, “Sad way to finish. “We had certain people fight like crazy and then other guys didn’t play offensively like they did the whole year. Yet in this competition, something like that occurs.
The course taken by Kansas State is not at all typical.
After a protracted tenure on Scott Drew’s staff, Tang departed Baylor to take over a school that had lost three consecutive seasons and last made the tournament in 2019.
Nonetheless, the Wildcats immediately flourished following a summer of transfer-portal labour. And on Sunday, Tang’s wagers came in handy in a variety of ways.
There was Johnson, who left Florida after falling during a game in December 2020 and had not participated in competition since.
There was the big guy David N’Guessan, a transfer from Virginia Tech, who played many late minutes with his right shoe off but still secured the offensive tip-rebound that set up Johnson’s three-pointer.
And then there was Massoud, who joined Nowell in remaining this year after transferring from Wake Forest before to Tang’s arrival. Around 30 minutes away from the campus of his first institution, he hit a massive 3.
Ish, Keyontae, David, and others took action “Nowell remarked. “We all stood up under such circumstances, and we cherish them.
That was another earlier-than-expected departure from March Madness for the other group of Wildcats.
The two-time AP All-American collected 25 rebounds in the first-round victory against Providence, which is the most in a tournament game since 1977. Tshiebwe was once again a force inside. At the break, Wallace scored 15 of his 21 points, including many occasions when the rookie utilised his 6-4 size to outmuscle Nowell inside.
Nevertheless, Antonio Reeves, the second-highest scorer (14.6 points), only scored five points on 1-for-15 shooting, including 1-for-10 on three-pointers. With 8 seconds remaining, there was just one make.
After the game, KSU players embraced at midcourt while guard Desi Sills, a fellow transfer, animatedly spoke with onlookers as he moved around the court.
Johnson remained behind the bench to sign autographs later, after the majority of spectators had departed the floor. And before sprinting off with a victorious point to a cross-court cluster of KSU supporters, Tomlin managed one more pass for high-fives of his own.
Kentucky: A tragic first-round defeat at the hands of 15-seed Saint Peter’s sparked the last year of erratic mood swings. Before to this tournament, Calipari had encouraged his players to play loose and freely. But, it was insufficient to allow Kentucky to advance to the second weekend for the first time since reaching the Final Eight in 2019, bringing an end to what Jacob Toppin termed “a roller coaster for sure” of a year.
State of Kansas: Marr likes Nowell. In Friday’s victory against Montana State in the first round, he had 17 points and 14 assists. And Nowell had 11 points and made 8 of 8 free throws as Kansas State defeated Kentucky 19–9 in the final minutes.
The 6-foot-9 forward N’Guessan played 74 seconds with his right shoe’s heel popping out until he was eventually able to replace it during a late break.
N’Guessan said, “I believed the officials were going to do anything after like three possessions. “I still had one shoe on and was wriggling about.”