Big 12 Basketball

Three Thoughts on Kansas State’s 77-65 NCAA Tournament Win Over Montana State

Kansas State guard Desi Sills.

The Kansas State Wildcats beat the Montana State Bobcats, 77-65, in the first round of the 2023 NCAA men’s basketball tournament in Greensboro, NC. Here are three thoughts on the game.

Kansas State (24-9) will face Kentucky in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday.

Montana State (25-9) gave Kansas State a game effort for 30 minutes but was never able to make it a one-possession game after falling behind by 10 at the end of the first half.


How Kansas State Won

By leaning on its stars. It started with guard Markquis Nowell, who was hot from the start and finished with a double-double — 17 points and 14 assists. He also had six rebounds and three steals. It was one of his best overall games of the last month.

Forward Keyonte Johnson played well, too. He scored 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds.

But the third on Friday was forward Nae’Qwan Tomlin, whose baseline dunk with about two minutes remaining in the game basically put the contest away. He was sharp, scoring 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting.

David N’Guessan had 10 points off the bench.

Even though it took the Wildcats about 25 minutes to fully take control of the game, it was hard to fault their effort. KSU shot 58 percent from the field and 72 percent from the free-throw line. The Wildcats limited the turnovers (just 14) and held a slight edge on the glass. The Kansas State defense forced 16 turnovers.

If you’re thinking about a long tournament run for Kansas State, this was a good first start.  


How Montana State Lost

One of its best players, Raequan Battle, was in foul trouble for a good portion of the second half. Even at that, he had an incredible 27 points, including three 3-pointers. Overall, Montana State shot 46 percent.

But the Bobcats needed something more on offense and it just didn’t quite get it. Jubrile Belo, a forward who usually averages 13.5 points, had just five. Forward Great Osobor had 11 points and guard Darius Brown II scored 10 points.

But what really hurt Montana State was its defense. The Bobcats has the best scoring defense in the Big Sky this season, giving up 66.6 points per game. Now, slowing down Kansas State is a tall order. And, holding the Wildcats to 77 points wasn’t necessarily a bad effort for MSU.

But that, combined with the inability to consistently score outside of Battle, worked against the Bobcats. Even MSU’s halfcourt zone press only discombobulated the Wildcats briefly.


The Wildcats Roll On

The Kansas State rise under first-year head coach Jerome Tang continued on Friday night.

The Wildcats won their first NCAA Tournament game since 2018, when they went on that magical Elite Eight run with Dean Wade, Kamau Stokes and Barry Brown Jr. Kansas State will face Kentucky in the second round on Sunday.

Kansas State got the hype going on Friday morning with his video from one of my favorite Dallas Mavericks, and former Kansas State star, Rolando Blackman:

I mean, if that doesn’t give you chills I don’t know what will.

Run that on a loop Sunday morning to get you ready for the second round, Wildcats fans.

You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard

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