Michigan State falls to Kansas State in NCAA Tournament OT thriller
New York — It was an NCAA Tournament game for the ages that included a record-setting individual performance.
For Michigan State it was simply a bitter defeat.
The seventh-seeded Spartans were up to the task offensively on Thursday night in their Sweet 16 matchup with No. 3 Kansas State, but in the end they couldn’t overcome the play of Kansas State guard Markquis Nowell, who scored 20 points and handed out a tournament-record 19 assists while overcoming an ankle injury that nearly knocked him out of the game.
BOX SCORE: Kansas State 98, Michigan State 93 (OT)
The final assist came with just less than 17 seconds to play in overtime as Nowell found Ismael Massoud for a baseline jumper that put Kansas State up by three before he swiped the ball from Tyson Walker in the final seconds to seal the 98-93 overtime victory for the Wildcats at Madison Square Garden.
“They knew we needed a three to tie the game up, and they just played it really well,” Walker said. “They switched, and they just guarded the 3-point line well. He made a good play and none of us could get a clean look, and they got a stop.”
The win allowed No. 3 Kansas State (26-9) to advance to the Elite Eight and a matchup Sunday with No. 9 Florida Atlantic, which upset No. 4 Tennessee.
Michigan State (21-13) had five players score in double figures and shot 13-for-25 from 3-point range. A.J. Hoggard scored 25 points to lead the Spartans while Joey Hauser had 18 points and six rebounds. Walker scored 16, Jaden Akins added 14 and Malik Hall had 13 points and eight rebounds.
Nowell scored 20 to go with his assists while Keyontae Johnson scored 22, including a lob dunk inside a minute to play in overtime. Ismael Massoud added 15, including a big three late in regulation and the final shot that proved to seal the victory in overtime.
The Wildcats routinely hit big shots, going 11-for-24 from 3-point range, getting a banked in triple from Nowell and several deep threes at the end of the shot clock that proved to be deflating for the Spartans.
“In that first half, those two shot-clock ones were real killers,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “It does break your back. You think you play pretty good D, a loose ball, he comes flying in and banks it. You say, well, it's just one shot, but I talked to my team at the hotel before we left, and you try to talk about the importance of one shot, one turnover, one free throw, and you can't harp on them because then guys get nervous and uptight. But there's a difference in winning and losing. That's just the way it is.
“We made some plays that weren't right, but the way those shots went in – and we hit some shots, too. But they made a couple – the Massoud kid made a couple of bombs, but those were at least good shots. The fall-down end of the shot clock ones, you kind of start thinking it's not your night.”
The pace was fast in the early going, even if the shots weren’t falling for Michigan State. However, the Spartans overcame a 1-for-7 start, getting a pair of 3-pointers from Hauser and another from Akins to tie the game at 17 before they took their first lead, 19-18, on a Hauser jumper with 8:04 left in the first half.
A Walker 3-pointer helped push the lead to 22-18 and it remained a four-point lead after a dazzling layup from Walker and a pair of free throws from Hauser. However, the Spartans couldn’t maintain the momentum as turnovers from Hoggard and Hall helped spark an 8-0 run for the Wildcats, giving them a 30-26 lead with four minutes to play in the half.
It went back and forth from there, but Kansas State got two more 3-pointers – it was 7-for-12 in the first half – and outscored Michigan State, 21-12, over the final 5:31 of the half to take a 43-38 lead to the locker room.
Kansas State kept things rolling early in the second half, pushing its lead to 47-38 by scoring the first four points. But Michigan State began to claw back into the game, taking advantage of an injury to Nowell before eventually grabbing the lead at 54-52 on a runner from Hoggard. His free throw made it a three-point game as the Wildcats responded with five straight points to take the lead back.
But an Akins 3-pointer and a Hall layup put Michigan State up, 60-57, with 11:25 to play as the back-and-forth continued.
Kansas State scored four in a row to take the lead as the advantage changed hands over the next five possessions. Walker and Hauser then hit back-to-back triples, but Kansas State answered by scoring the next 10 points to take a 77-70 lead with 4:44 to play.
Walker answered with a 3-pointer and Hoggard hit two free throws to get the Spartans within two, but Massoud then nailed his deep triple. Akins then hit a three and Hall got a put-back to bring MSU within two. After a stop, Walker scored on a runner to tie the game with five seconds to play and Nowell’s last shot came up short to force overtime.
The battle continued in overtime with Michigan State going up, 87-84, on a Walker triple. But Kansas State scored the next four to take the lead as it went back and forth from there, ending up tied at 92 with 1:29 to play. That’s when Nowell made the play of the game, appearing to argue with coach Jerome Tang while throwing a long lob to Johnson to put Kansas State up two.
“It was just a basketball play between me and Keyontae,” Nowell said, fessing up about how the play was designed.. “We knew how Michigan State plays defense. They play high up and Keyontae just told me, we got eye contact, and he was like, lob, lob. I just threw it up, and he made a great play.”
Hall then split a pair of free throws with 42.8 left to leave Michigan State behind, 94-93, before the Wildcats got another huge bucket from Massoud before Walker’s final shot never got off as Nowell swiped it and went in for a layup as the buzzer sounded.
“I give a lot of credit to Kansas State,” Izzo said. “They made some big plays down the stretch. They made some big plays early. I’ve been part of a lot of big wins and I've been part of a lot of tough losses. I’ve never been prouder of a team because we didn't have our game tonight. We did not play like we were the first half. It was just kind of we were ham-and-egging it and just kind of fighting through it. We just kept fighting.”