NEW YORK CITY—In an instant classic at Madison Square Garden, Kansas State was the last one to get off the mat in a back-and-forth offensive showdown featuring two teams that just did everything in their power to come out on top.
KSU’s senior guard Markquis Nowell was a problem for Michigan State all evening. The 5-foot-8-inch point guard was a wizard running the offense, creating open looks for his teammates all afternoon with unbelievable passes. By the end of the night, Nowell racked up 19 assists and 20 points.
Junior guard A.J. Hoggard had one of the best nights of his career. Driving to the net and notching tough buckets in overtime and the last few minutes of the game, Hoggard was essential down the stretch in keeping pace with Kansas State.
After a terrible couple of showings in the first two games of the NCAA Tournament, Michigan State’s three-point shooting finally showed up, keeping MSU just within reach of the Wildcats. The Spartans finished shooting 52% from three.
Four of Michigan State’s starting five put up double-digit nights: Hoggard had 25, graduate student forward Joey Hauser had 18, sophomore Jaden Akins had 14 and senior guard Tyson Walker had 16. In addition, senior forward Malik Hall tacked on 13 points coming off the bench.
While the pace was quick in the opening minutes, shots weren’t exactly falling with consistency. Both teams had a strong on-ball presence defensively, forcing ill-advised shots frequently.
However, KSU’s Nowell flexed his elite distribution throughout the first, tossing no-look passes and finding wide-open teammates for a total of 10 assists. Senior forward Keyontae Johnson was also a menace in the first, benefitting in part form Nowell’s fabulous passing and scoring a team-high 14 points.
The teams traded leads throughout the half, momentum swinging back and forth. In the final five minutes of the half, a few mistakes, turnovers and fouls put the Wildcats in the driver’s seat. With scoring picking up and shooters getting hot, Kansas State went into the locker room with a 43-38 lead over Michigan State.
In opposition to the previous two games of the tournament, shots were falling from deep for Michigan State early on. Coming off of a 2-16 three-point performance against Marquette, MSU went into the locker room shooting 56% from beyond the arc.
Hauser was essential in turning around the Spartans’ hitherto ice-cold three-point shooting, splashing a couple of shots from deep roughly five minutes into the half. He entered the locker room at halftime with a team-high 12 points.
Although the Spartans had a strong first-half showing from deep through the first half, they shot just 40% from the field. KSU was stout in the paint, unwilling to let the likes of Akins, Walker and Hoggard drive to the net. Other than Hauser, Michigan State didn’t get any other great first-half performances; scoring was distributed across the starting five.
Kansas State came out of the locker room swinging, but MSU countered the punches with a few makes deep. With some shots falling from three, Michigan State’s offense found its groove again and tied things up just over five minutes into the second.
The back-and-forth nature of the first half reappeared. The Spartans stayed red-hot from deep, while Nowell kept picking apart the defense with his deadly-accurate passes.
Neither offense seemed able to slow down as the second half wound to a close. There were no true momentum swings - both teams simply traded punches on nearly every offensive possession. It was truly the antithesis of MSU’s two prior tournament matchups.
However, with just over five minutes left in the half, Kansas State took as much as a seven-point lead, stifling the Spartan offense and continuing to click on offense. A Walker triple finally halted a 7-0 run from the Wildcats.
Despite the three, Kansas State clung on to its lead until the waning minutes. Michigan State couldn’t get consistent stops on defense, and the offense wasn’t quite hot enough to keep up with the Wildcats.
Akins hit a clutch three with a minute and a half left in the game to bring the game within two points. Naturally, Nowell answered with a tough basket of his own, reextending the lead to two possessions.
Michigan State cut it to two and forced a defensive stop. With five seconds left in the game, Walker drove in for a clutch basket, knotting things up at 82 all. Nowell missed the game-winner, making the game go into overtime.
After the teams traded a pair of baskets, Walker hit a three to put MSU in front for the first time since 7:33 of the second half. When Kansas State retook a lead shortly after, Hoggard battled into the paint and notched a bucket, then tacked on another point with an and-one foul to secure a two-point lead.
Again, Kansas State found a way to tie things up. And after a stop on defense, the Wildcats took the lead with an alley-oop dunk.
Ultimately, Michigan State couldn’t find the game-tying basket in the final seconds and Kansas State advanced.