Editor’s note: Updated the end of the article to reflect Florida Atlantic’s victory over Tennessee.
Even with a bad ankle, guard Markquis Nowell came to play on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden, breaking the NCAA tournament record for assists in a game with 19 in a 98-93 Kansas State overtime victory over Michigan State.
The victory sends K-State to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2018, where they’ll either take on Tennessee or Florida Atlantic.
The game will be remembered by many, as neither team held a lead bigger than nine points throughout. Whenever it seemed like one side would get on a run, the other came back. It was a classic heavyweight fight for the ages.
The Wildcats’ efficient shooting from the floor and forcing turnovers were the major contributors to its victory.
Nowell shined, breaking Mark Wade’s single-game record for assists in a tournament game with 19. He also dropped 20 points and recorded five steals — his last coming on Michigan State’s final possession where he drove the length of the court to hit the game-clinching layup as the buzzer sounded.
The 5-foot-8 guard from Harlem, New York, did this with a sprained right ankle for most of the game, which he tweaked while driving to the basket early in the second half.
The Wildcats had a balanced scoring attack. With forward Keyontae Johnson and Nowell leading the scoring with 22 and 20 respectively, other key contributors like guard Cam Carter, forward David N’Guessan and forward Ismael Massoud all scored in double figures.
Massoud had 15 points and connected on four of six 3-point shots, while N’Guessan made all five of his attempts and Carter made all but one of his attempts.
On Michigan State’s side of the box score, guard A.J. Hoggard dropped a game-high 25 points while collecting six assists. Forward Joey Hauser dropped 18 in the contest, also connecting on four 3-point shots, as the Spartans shot 52% from the three-point line.
The Wildcat victory sends the team to the Elite Eight in head coach Jerome Tang’s first year. K-State has not won an Elite Eight game since 1964 and has not made the National Championship game since 1951.
A win on Saturday over the Florida Atlantic Owls would be a historic victory for the program.