Marquis Nouvel will not let his team lose.
Nowell, the spark-plug 5-foot-8 point guard for Kansas State, turned in one of the best performances of the NCAA tournament in a 75-69 win over Kentucky on Sunday in Greensboro.
Whether he was hitting 3-pointers from the midcourt logo or making highlight reel assists to his teammates, Noull had a counter for every blow Kentucky delivered. He finished with 27 points, nine assists and three steals to send Kentucky home and get Kansas State into the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2018.
In a game where his team struggled to make outside jumpers, the speedy Nowell was able to penetrate the United Kingdom defense and navigate between the trees. Even though Kentucky All-American big man Oscar Tshibwe dominated the glass, Nowell’s ability to get teammates into the paint and dish helped Kansas State during a 0-for-12 first half shooting performance from beyond the arc. Saved
K-State’s defense helped as well. Kentucky turned the ball over 11 times in the first half, but had a renewed focus to start the second half. K-State had a 29–26 lead at the break, but Kentucky went on a 13–0 run in the second half. Kentucky, a team that struggles in half-court offense, came out on breaks and was getting very easy buckets in transition.
After leading at halftime, K-State’s lead quickly turned into a 39–31 deficit less than four minutes into the half.
But Kansas State would not be deterred. K-State was picked to finish last in the Big 12 entering Jerome Tang’s first season as head coach, but this team has consistently outperformed expectations. What was the eight point deficit for Kentucky in the second round of the NCAA tournament?
K-State responded with an 8–0 run of its own, sparking an evenly matched game in the final 13 minutes of regulation.
But there were more plays down the stretch from Kansas State. Noull drilled a 3 from Logo to tie the game at 54–54 with 6:10 to go. A few minutes later, when Kentucky had taken a four-point lead, Nowell drilled a step-back triple to cut Britain’s lead to 60–59 with 3:33 remaining.
Novell later hit two free throws to put his team ahead and assisted on clutch 3-pointers from Ismail Massoud and Keonte Johnson that put K-State ahead for good.
Johnson had a step-back dagger at the 1:23 mark.
While Nowell led, Johnson was one of three others to score in double digits for Kansas State. Johnson had 13 points while Desi Sills and Nequan Tomlin each scored 12 points.
Against Kentucky, Tshibwe posted 25 points and 18 rebounds in what may prove to be his last game in a college uniform. Kison Wallace had 21 points and nine rebounds and Chris Livingston had 11, but Antonio Reeves had a torrid afternoon.
Reeves, Britain’s second leading scorer and best outside shooter, finished a miserable 1-15 from the field, including a 1-10 mark from beyond the arc. The only shot he hit was his last, a 3-pointer with only six seconds left on the clock.
Kentucky was just 4-of-20 on 3-pointers and finished the game with 16 costly turnovers.