Never has a player dished out more assists in an NCAA Tournament game than Kansas State guard Markquis Nowell did in a 98-93 overtime victory over Michigan State in the Sweet 16 Thursday night. He racked up a tourney record 19 dimes, setting the record on a crucial 2-pointer in the corner by forward Ismael Massoud with 14.8 seconds left.
Nowell passes UNLV’s Mark Wade who had 18 assists in the 1987 National Semifinals
That record, though, didn’t come without some perseverance. After what was an incredible start back home in New York City, Nowell tweaked his right ankle and had to exit the Sweet 16 with trainers carrying him off. That allowed the Spartans to erase a decent deficit before the tough Nowell returned, eventually gutting it out and leading the ‘Cats to victory in the extra frame.
Did I mention he gutted it out? Upon his return, Nowell promptly got back to work with an incredible running 3-pointer late in the shot clock.
Through just less than 16 minutes of play, Nowell had already dished out seven assists. Two of those on back-to-back possessions were quite electric.
First, Nowell turned a huge block by forward Nae’Qwan Tomlin on one end into a nifty finish on the other when he found forward Keyontae Johnson for a slam, and-one. After that, with his right hand he fired a one-handed pass underneath to Tomlin, who snared and slammed it.
His 10 assists at halftime served as the most by any player in the NCAA Tournament so far. About his only negative was a behind-the-back pass on target off a steal that didn’t turn into points when a Michigan State player got back and knocked it out of bounds of his intended target.
Kansas State carried a 43-38 lead into the break in an enthralling opening 20 minutes that turned into an enthralling 40-plus minutes. The game ultimately then went to overtime between these two seeking an Elite Eight berth.