Markquis Nowell wouldn’t let his staff lose.
Nowell, the spark-plug 5-foot-8 level guard for Kansas State, turned in the most effective performances of the NCAA match in a heart-stopping 75-69 victory over Kentucky on Sunday in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Whether he was hitting 3-pointers from the midcourt brand or dishing off highlight-reel assists to his teammates, Nowell had a counter for each blow Kentucky delivered. He completed with 27 factors, 9 assists and three steals to ship Kentucky house and convey Kansas State to the Sweet 16 after lacking the match within the three earlier seasons.
In a sport the place his staff struggled to make outdoors jumpers, the speedy Nowell was in a position to penetrate the UK protection and navigate among the many bushes. Even as Kentucky All-American massive man Oscar Tshiebwe dominated on the glass, Nowell’s potential to get into the paint and dish to teammates saved Kansas State afloat throughout an anemic 0-for-12 first half taking pictures efficiency from past the arc.
Okay-State’s protection helped, too. Kentucky turned the ball over 11 occasions within the first half, however got here out with a renewed focus to open the second half. Okay-State had a 29-26 lead on the break, however Kentucky opened the second half on a 13-0 run. Kentucky, a staff that struggles within the half-court offense, bought out on the break and was getting loads of simple buckets in transition.
Okay-State’s halftime lead shortly was a 39-31 deficit lower than 4 minutes into the second half.
But Kansas State wouldn’t be deterred. Okay-State was picked to complete final within the Big 12 getting into Jerome Tang’s first season as head coach, however this staff has regularly out-performed expectations. What was an eight-point deficit to Kentucky within the second spherical of the NCAA match?
Okay-State responded with an 8-0 run of its personal, sparking an evenly matched sport over the ultimate 13 minutes of regulation.
But the Kansas State aspect made extra performs down the stretch. Nowell drilled a 3 from the brand to tie the sport at 54-54 with 6:10 to play. A couple of minutes later, after Kentucky had taken a four-point lead, Nowell drilled a step-back triple to chop UK’s result in 60-59 with 3:33 remaining.
Nowell later hit two free throws to place his staff forward and assisted on clutch 3-pointers from Ismael Massoud and Keyontae Johnson that put Okay-State forward for good.
Johnson’s step-back on the 1:23 mark was the dagger.
While Nowell led the way in which, Johnson was one among three others to attain in double figures for Kansas State. Johnson had 13 factors whereas Desi Sills and Nae’qwan Tomlin posted 12 apiece.
On the Kentucky aspect, Tshiebwe, the 2022 nationwide participant of the yr, posted 25 factors and 18 rebounds in what might show to be his last sport in a school uniform. Cason Wallace had 21 factors and 9 rebounds and Chris Livingston had 11, however Antonio Reeves had a brutal afternoon.
Reeves, UK’s second-leading scorer and greatest outdoors shooter, completed a depressing 1-of-15 from the sector, together with a 1-of-10 mark from past the arc. The solely shot he hit was his final, a 3-pointer with simply six seconds left on the clock.
Kentucky was simply 4-of-20 on 3-pointers and completed the sport with 16 expensive turnovers.
Another early NCAA match exit for Kentucky
It’s been a tough three-year stretch for John Calipari’s Kentucky program.
Calipari went to the Elite Eight, the Final Four after which gained the nationwide championship in his first three years on the job. In the seven seasons that adopted, Calipari coached the Wildcats to a nationwide runner-up end, a Final Four, two Elite Eights and a Sweet 16.
The final three seasons, nonetheless, have been nowhere close to that lofty commonplace. Kentucky missed the match altogether by ending 9-16 in a depressing 2021 marketing campaign, had an embarrassing loss within the first spherical to No. 15 seed St. Peter’s final yr after which fell within the spherical of 32 this yr.
Kentucky was ranked within the high 5 when the season started however by no means lived as much as expectations. UK misplaced three of its first 4 SEC video games and at one level was 16-9 general with a 7-5 report in SEC play. The Wildcats performed higher by means of the month of February however misplaced twice to Vanderbilt in early March, together with within the SEC match.
UK earned a No. 6 seed within the NCAA match and held off No. 11 Providence within the first spherical regardless of an unpleasant offensive efficiency. The Wildcats couldn’t do the identical on Sunday vs. Kansas State.
The Wildcats are going to look completely different subsequent season, as has grow to be the customized for Calipari’s groups. Kentucky’s 2023 recruiting class contains 4 five-star prospects and is ranked No. 1 within the nation. The Wildcats will not lack for expertise and the stress will probably be on Calipari but once more to ship a a lot better postseason outcome.