NEW YORK — Markquis Nowell broke the NCAA Tournament record for assists in a game with 19, his last two on spectacular passes in the final minute of overtime, and Kansas State beat Michigan State 98-93 on Thursday night in a Sweet 16 thriller at Madison Square Garden.
Playing in his hometown and fighting through a second-half ankle injury, Nowell found Keyontae Johnson for a reverse alley-oop with 52 seconds left in OT to give the Wildcats (26-9) the lead for good in this back-and-forth East Region semifinal. He then threw an inbound pass to Ismael Massoud, who knocked down a jumper with 17 seconds left for a 96-93 lead.
With Michigan State needing a 3 to tie, Nowell stole the ball from the Spartans’ Tyson Walker and drove for a clinching layup at the buzzer. The 5-foot-8, Harlem-raised Nowell finished with 20 points and five steals in a signature performance at basketball’s most famous arena that drew tweets of praise from Patrick Mahomes and Kevin Durant.
“That was a legendary display of controlling a basketball game Markquis,” Durant tweeted.
Johnson scored 22 points for the No. 3 seed Wildcats, who will face either fourth-seeded Tennessee or ninth-seeded Florida Atlantic on Saturday as they seek the program’s first Final Four berth since 1964.
A.J. Hoggard scored a career-high 25 points for seventh-seeded Michigan State (21-13). Joey Hauser added 18 points and Walker had 16, including a layup with 5 seconds left in regulation that forced the first overtime of this year’s NCAA Tournament.
UNLV’s Mark Wade had the previous NCAA tourney assists record with 18 during the Runnin’ Rebels 1987 Final Four win over Indiana.
Nowell turned his ankle early in the second half, was helped off the court and had it taped. Michigan State took the lead with him sidelined, and when he returned, he pushed off the ankle to bank in a 3-pointer that beat the shot clock and tied the game at 55-all.
Turns out he was just getting started. Neither team led by more than seven points in the final 15 minutes of regulation, and Nowell steadied Kansas State’s offense down the stretch, finding Massoud for a 3-pointer that made it 80-75 and hitting a jumper with 1:07 left for the Wildcats’ final basket of regulation.
Massoud, who like Nowell honed his game on the playgrounds of Harlem, finished with 15 points for the Wildcats, who shot 55.9% from the field, becoming only the second team to shoot better than 50% against the Spartans this season. Cam Carter added 12 points.
Jaden Akins added 14 points for coach Tom Izzo’s Spartans, the final Big Ten team left in the tournament. Michigan State outrebounded Kansas State 37-31 and finished 31 of 63 from the field (49.2%).
Both teams were efficient from 3-point range in a tournament that’s featured shaky outside shooting, with Michigan State hitting 13 of 25 (52%) and Kansas State connecting on 11 of 24 (45.8%).
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