New York City- Games sometimes take on the ‘classic’ label and sometimes fall short. Make no mistake, the Kansas State 98-93 overtime win over Michigan State was a true classic in every sense of the word. The first semifinal in the NCAA New York Regional at Madison Square Garden on Thursday sent the Wildcats (26-9) to the Elite Eight while the Spartans saw their season close at 21-13.
In total 11 players scored in double figures- five for Michigan State and six for Kansas State. The most notable was Markquis Nowell of K-State. The senior guard, playing with a bad ankle, and native New Yorker scored 20 points while handing out 19 assists (against two turnovers in 43 minutes). That latter mark was a record for a NCAA Tournament game.
"This one was special in front of my hometown and the city that loves me," Nowell said. "I can’t even put into words how blessed and grateful I am."
One of the reasons you can file this contest in the classic category was the 14 ties and 16 lead changes. "It was like a Rocky fight tonight," Nowell said. "We were going back and forth, back and forth, and back and forth."
The game was an uptempo affair with both teams operating at a high efficiency. Kansas State checked in with a 134 offensive efficiency, while the Spartans were 127. Ironically, both came in with identical 114 efficiencies. Michigan State shot 49% from the floor, 52% (13-25) from three. K-State was a torrid 56%, hitting 46% (11-24) from downtown. The big difference was turnovers. Michigan State was guilty of 13 and defensively couldn’t force them (K-State had five).
"The game was lost with 16 points off turnovers they got (Michigan State had two)," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo lamented. "Turnovers was one thing we were concerned with."
Jerome Tang, the K-State mentor, may be in his first year as a head coach. Tang is no stranger to the profession nor success. He was a long time assistant to Scott Drew at Baylor. Tang was part of Baylor’s 2021 NCAA Championship team. He also is familiar with the Garden, having served as an assistant when Baylor won the 2013 NIT.
Twice, Kansas State hit desperation shots with the shot clock winding down. Crucial, one a fall down bank shot, desperation shots. "The fall down at the end of the shot clock makes you think it might not be your night," Izzo said.
Michigan trailed by two, inbouding the ball with seconds left in regulation. Out of a time out Izzo called a clear out for Tyson Walker. The senior guard took his man off the dribble to convert a game tying field goal with five seconds left. In overtime, the Spartans appeared to have the momentum on their side.
Walker hit a three to put Michigan State ahead by three early in the extra session. K-State answered and held a three point lead with 12 seconds remaining.For most of the extra session, stops were an infrequent occurrence for both sides. At the most important time, the Wildcats got one. The Spartans could not get a shot off, lost the ball and Nowell converted at the other end to seal the verdict.
AJ Hoggard of Michigan State led all scorers with 25 points. Joey Hauser added 18. For K-State, Keyontae Johnson led the way with 22.
Izzo summed up his feelings adding, "I am really
Proud of them. I don’t say that about a lot of teams . But what they’ve done in the last couple of weeks, how they’ve grown."
How many trips to the monitor are necessary ? Lost count on Friday. There are three officials and if no one can come up with an out of bounds call, flagrant etc., then go to the monitor. Got to the point fans were booing during the numerous late trips to the monitor. This was a great game of riveting suspense in action. No need to incessantly break up the flow.
A packed Madison Square Garden. The ‘world’s most famous arena’, a fitting venue for this battle. Sweet 16, all of those remaining in the field are skilled and talented. There is a chance though, the matchup might yield a less than exciting game. Not on this night. Many in attendance or press row billed this a ‘classic’ arguably one of the best March Madness games-ever. The Garden just seemed the ideal place for these two teams to get together in a not to be forgotten contest.