K-State advances to Sweet 16 over Kentucky

Kansas State guard Markquis Nowell drives towards the hoop against Texas Christian University at Bramlage Coliseum on Feb. 7. K-State won 82-61. (Archive photo by Nichole Maryse Harris | Collegian Media Group)

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect Michigan State’s victory over Marquette.

The No. 3 seeded Kansas State Wildcats continues dancing in the NCAA Tournament. After defeating the No. 6 seeded Kentucky Wildcats 75-69, K-State heads to the Sweet 16 in head coach Jerome Tang’s first season. K-State will take on No. 7 seeded Michigan State.

Kentucky forward Oscar Tshiebwe made his presence felt immediately. The ​​6-foot-9 senior collected multiple rebounds on both ends in addition to scoring.

K-State’s offense started off sluggish, only making one of its first eight shots including 0-5 from 3-point range. The K-State defense, however, kept them in the game by forcing early turnovers and putting an emphasis on limiting Tshiebwe.

Kentucky would lead for a majority of a physical first half, but guard Markquis Nowell began to chip away for K-State. At the three-minute mark, a couple of flashy dishes from Nowell to forward Keyontae Johnson gave K-State their first lead since the opening score. 

On the last play of the half, an electric alley-oop slam by forward Nae’Qwan Tomlin, assisted by Nowell, gave K-State a 29-26 lead and the momentum going into the break. 

K-State failed to make a 3-pointer in the first half but overcame its shooting by forcing 11 turnovers. Tshiebwe already recorded a double-double at the break with 11 points and 11 rebounds.

Kentucky took the momentum right back to start the second half with an early 11-0 run. K-State responded, settling back in on defense, and eventually taking the lead with 10 minutes to play. 

The ensuing minutes continued to be a battle. Kentucky held a slight one-point lead at the under-four-minute mark timeout.

Despite its previous struggles behind the arc, K-State sank two clutch 3-pointers by forwards Ismael Massoud and Johnson. K-State’s defense created stops when it needed to and took a five-point lead with under a minute to play.

The final seconds relied on K-State — primarily Nowell — making free throws that ultimately led to the six-point victory.

Nowell finished with 27 points and 9 assists. Tomlin collected 12 points, six rebounds and four assists against Tshiebwe. Forward David N’Guessan gave K-State valuable minutes against Tshiebwe as well, finishing with four rebounds and three steals. Guard Desi Sills reached double figures with 12 points.

Johnson collected 13 points, a low number compared to his average but hit the shot that largely iced the game for K-State. Similarly, Massoud’s clutch 3-pointer accounted for his only points in the contest.

Tshiebwe finished with 25 points and 18 rebounds for Kentucky.

K-State’s Sweet 16 matchup will take place on Thursday at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The game time will be announced at a later time.