Rob Issa, FISM News
Markquis Nowell’s record-setting performance was the talk of the NCAA Tournament in the opening round of the Sweet 16.
Kansas State’s 5-foot-8 senior guard set a tournament record with 19 assists, including an alley-oop pass from the March Madness logo on the floor of the iconic Madison Square Garden that led to a go-ahead dunk in the final minute of the Wildcats’ 98-93 overtime victory over Michigan State.
Markquis Nowell to Keyontae Johnson.
Kansas State has shown all season it will throw lobs under any circumstances. Jerome Tang’s team is always aggressive and comfortable in the moment.pic.twitter.com/btkehp9H2G
— Gary Parrish (@GaryParrishCBS) March 24, 2023
Nowell found Keyontae Johnson sliding open to the basket and tossed a long lob pass over a defender. Johnson’s reverse slam gave Kansas State a 94-92 lead with just under a minute left.
Johnson finished with 22 points, Nowell had 20 and the No. 3 seed Wildcats advanced to face ninth-seeded Florida Atlantic.
“I just want to start by saying all glory to God. He gave me these gifts and these talents,” Nowell said in a post-game interview. “I’m just glad I get the platform to showcase them.”
Kansas State’s first-year coach Jerome Tang also celebrated leading his team to the Elite Eight by giving thanks to God.
“First and foremost, I would like to thank the Good Lord for this opportunity and the blessings he has given us,” Tang said.
Nowell played the final part of the second half and overtime on an injured ankle that required him to get help off the court when he was injured.
“Today was a special one, man,” said Nowell, who grew up in Harlem. “I’ve got to give a lot of credit to my teammates for battling, for fighting through adversity when we were down. I can’t even explain how I’m feeling right now. I just know that I’m blessed and I’m grateful.”
A.J. Hoggard led seventh-seeded Michigan State with a career-high 25 points. Tyson Walker’s layup with 5 seconds left in regulation forced the first overtime of this year’s NCAA Tournament.
FAU UPSETS TENNESSEE
Kansas State’s upcoming opponent, FAU, upset fourth-seeded Tennessee 62-55 to reach the Elite Eight for the first time in school history. The Owls are playing in the tourney for just the second time ever.
Johnell Davis led Florida Atlantic with 15 points and Michael Forrest scored 11, including eight in a stretch where FAU took control of the game in the second half.
UCONN WINS BIG
In the West region, fourth-seeded Connecticut ousted No. 8 Arkansas 88-65 behind 24 points from Jordan Hawkins.
UConn will play third-seeded Gonzaga on Saturday night for a trip to the Final Four. The Huskies dominated the Razorbacks, shooting 57.4% compared to 31.7% for Arkansas. UConn controlled the game inside and on the boards.
“I’m just proud of the way we’ve built this thing,” Huskies coach Dan Hurley said. “We’ve got an incredible group of players, and we get the right type of people and we’ve got great culture. We’re right where we thought we would be.”
UConn is seeking its fifth national title and first since 2014.
GONZAGA WINS THRILLER
Gonzaga eliminated No. 2 UCLA 79-76 in a thriller as Julian Strawther drilled a deep 3-pointer from the “S” in March Madness logo at center court of the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
STRAWTHER FROM WAY DEEP
GONZAGA HAS THE LEAD 😱#MarchMadness @ZagMBB pic.twitter.com/jBYf4gpn4q
— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessMBB) March 24, 2023
UCLA had taken a 76-75 lead on a 10-1 run in the final minute that was capped by Amari Bailey’s 3-pointer with 13 seconds remaining.
But Strawther answered with 8 seconds to go and then Tyler Campbell was stripped by Malachi Smith and turned the ball over for UCLA.
After Strawther made one of two free throws with 1.1 seconds on the clock, Campbell’s desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer hit the back of the rim.
It was the third epic battle between the two programs in the tournament since 2006. They had the same seeds in 2006 when UCLA won 73-71. In 2021, undefeated Gonzaga beat 11th-seeded UCLA 93-90 in overtime in a Final Four matchup.