Nowell, Late 3s lift Kansas State past Kentucky in the NCAAs

GREENSBORO, NC (AP) — Markquis Nowell scored 23 of his 27 points after halftime, and Kansas State overcame a terrible outside start by hitting a couple of clutch 3-pointers in the second round of Sunday’s NCAA tournament during he led Kentucky 75-69.

The win sends the third-ranked Wildcats (25-9) back into the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2018, and it came thanks to a series of big shots they eventually broke through in a tight game.

They play the Michigan State-Marquette winner in the East Region semifinals.

Kansas State missed its first 13 3-pointers and went 2 for 17 for the game as outside shots started to fall. There was Nowell, who buried a step-back 3 against Cason Wallace to put Kansas State within 60-59, followed by Ismael Massoud, who buried one from the right wing at the 2:21 mark, leaving Kansas State at 64 finally took the lead -62.

Keyontae Johnson added another from this side of the court in front of Kansas State Bank and extended the lead at 1:23 to 67-62 – sending out a jolt with the kind of margin that, considering almost the entire second half, is massive felt had been played within four points.

The 5-foot-8 Nowell, an Associated Press third-team All-American, played a fearless ground game while making 7 of 14 shots and 10 of 11 free throws. He also hit three 3s, including the first over Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe after a 0-for-13 start from Kansas State and another after halftime with his left foot on the “March Madness” logo near midfield.

Tshiebwe had 25 points and 18 rebounds for six-seeded Kentucky (22-12), who shot 55% after halftime and led by eight early in the second half. But the Wildcats could never extend that lead and then couldn’t make their own big outside shots (4 for 20 for the game) to answer when Kansas State made their move.

Consider it the latest chapter in a series of surprisingly quick wins for Kansas State under first-year coach Jerome Tang, who left Baylor to take over in Manhattan after a long stint on Scott Drew’s staff. He inherited a program that had not competed in the tournament since 2019, had lost three straight seasons and was selected last in the Big 12.

But after a summer of roster reshuffles via the transfer portal, the Wildcats built confidence early and thrived immediately – and now they have in the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.

And the bet paid off in many ways on Sunday.

There was Johnson who joined from Florida after collapsing in a game in December 2020 and had not played since before resuming his career at Kansas State.

There was Massoud, who was playing at Wake Forest – about a 30-minute drive from the Greensboro Coliseum – and hadn’t scored until he hit that huge 3.

And there was even Virginia Tech transfer big man David N’Guessan, who played several late possessions with his right heel out of his shoe – but still had the tipout offensive rebound that led to Johnson’s 3.


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