No. 12 K-State dug themselves an early hole on Saturday against No. 19 Iowa State, but saw the return of an efficient and dynamic Markquis Nowell, as well as a suffocating defense to take down the Cyclones 61-55.
Iowa State was without Caleb Grill for Saturday’s contest as the Maize native and 38% three-point shooter continues to deal with a lingering injury. K-State opened the game with a brand new starting five, going with three guards instead of two. Desi Sills joined Cam Carter and Markquis Nowell in the K-State backcourt, replacing David N’Guessan who came off the bench after dealing with an illness.
It was a sluggish start for both teams offensively and K-State only had two players make multiple shots in the first half, Keyontae Johnson and Ish Massoud. The turning point in the first half came with the game tied at 17-17.
K-State forced a missed three from Jaren Holmes and looked to have the rebound, but Sills undercut a Cyclone player and was tagged for an intentional foul. It led to a 7-0 burst for Iowa State who would use the momentum to carry a 31-23 lead into the halftime break.
K-State shot just over 30% from the floor and only 20% from three in the first half, while Iowa State was over 40% from the floor.
The Wildcats answered early in the second half, scoring a quick five points to shrink the Iowa State lead to just three points. Nowell hit a much-needed three to start the half and Nae’Qwan Tomlin was able to finish inside.
Nowell stayed hot, knocking down two more triples and getting a three-point basket from Cam Carter, which turned the Wildcats’ eight-point deficit at the half, into a one-point lead at the first media timeout of the second half at 14:27.
K-State continued through most of the second half with the lead hovering around three points, and took a 49-46 advantage into the final 3:37 of the game.
Possibly the biggest shot for K-State came with 2:40 to play and the Wildcats leading by two, David N’Guessan had just taken a charge on the other end and forced a stop of Iowa State. As the time wound down on the shot clock, Nowell hoisted another deep three that dropped to give the Wildcats a two-possession advantage.
After the two teams traded free throws, Markquis Nowell’s defense on the sideline forced Tamin Lipsey to step out of bounds and the Wildcats were able to bleed the clock under two minutes. Even after a Nowell miss, he stopped a fast break and forced Lipsey to throw the ball away to Johnson. That duo would team up to deliver the game-sealing basket with less than a minute to play, as Nowell found a cutting Johnson for a reverse layup.
Nowell led the scoring on Saturday with 20 points, 18 of which came in the second half on 4/7 three point shooting. Johnson also scored in double figures with 15. K-State has reached 20 wins for the first time in a season since 2019, and is the 31st 20-win season in school history. It was also K-State’s sixth victory over an AP Top 25 opponent this season, tying the school record.
The 20-7 (8-6) Wildcats will have their penultimate home game up next against Baylor on Tuesday at 6:00 PM.