The Kansas State Wildcats beat the Michigan State Spartans, 98-93, in the Sweet 16 of the 2023 NCAA men’s basketball tournament in New York City. Here are three thoughts on the game.
Kansas State (25-9) will advance to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2018, when the Wildcats lost to Loyola-Chicago. Michigan State (21-13) exits the tournament, but was the only Big Ten team to reach the round of 16.
Best Game of the Tournament
If you want to end the tournament after that game, I’d be happy to (thought I’m sure Kansas State fans want to keep rolling).
What I mean by that is you’re not going to see a better game. You’re just not.
Kansas State shot 56 percent from the floor and 46 percent from the 3-point line for 45 minutes. Guard Markquis Nowell set the NCAA record for most assists in the game, with No. 19 being the baseline dish to Ismael Massoud in the final seconds of overtime.
Only this team throws an alley-oop set piece while Nowell and coach Jerome Tang are chatting about the play call. As a bonus, Kansas State only committed five turnovers.
Michigan State was Kansas State’s equal, despite the loss. The Spartans shot 50 percent from the floor and 52 percent from the 3-point line. AJ Hoggard had a masterful game, scoring 25 points and he’s the player that sent the game to overtime. The set piece that MSU coach Tom Izzo set up to end regulation was masterful.
So how did Kansas State win?
How Kansas State Won
It would be easy to point the finger at Nowell, who scored 20 points and had five steals, along with the 19 assists. His steal on a Michigan State 3-point attempt ended the game. He also played half the game with a rolled ankle. He wasn’t at his best physically. But you wouldn’t have known it.
Six Wildcats were in double figures. All six of them had massive moments. Nae’Qwan Tomlin had 11 points and seven rebounds and at times had the Michigan State defense on his heels every time he cut to the hoop. David N’Guessan had 11 off the bench and was the recipient of assists on a couple of great cuts to the basket.
Keyontae Johnson had 22 points and six rebounds, with the punctuation mark being that alley-oop that gave the Wildcats a two-point lead in overtime. Cam Carter had 12 points and six rebounds.
But Ismael Massoud? Man. Fifteen points off the bench. Four 3-pointers. Every single one was big. The last field goal was Nowell’s 19th assist, a baseline 12-footer that gave Kansas State a 3-point lead in the final seconds of overtime.
Quibbles? Nowell made a couple of poor decisions shooting long 3-pointers and got a break on the second one in overtime when Malik Hall tipped it and MSU let it go out of bounds. That set up the Massoud basket.
The other was rebounding. Michigan State had the Wildcats there, 37-31 overall and 13-8 on the offensive glass.
How Michigan State Lost
That’s the question right? How? The Spartans played great. Hoggard had 25 points and was 10-for-11 from the line. Joey Hauser had 18 points and four 3-pointers. Tyson Walker had 16 points and five assists. Jaden Akins had 14 points. Hall came off the bench for 13 points and eight rebounds.
The 3-point shooting kept Michigan State in the game. So did the free-throw shooting (18-of-22).
But what got MSU? Two things. First, the turnovers. The Spartans committed 13. That’s a chasm when you consider that KSU only had five.
The second was interior defense. The Spartans struggled all night with defense in the paint. Kansas State made them pay repeatedly for their inability to handle back-door cuts and high screens.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard