Markquis Nowell: 6 stars
Any time that you set an NCAA Tournament record you are getting a five-star rating. When you do it in a game of this magnitude in a matchup where both teams are playing at as close to their peak, you’re getting six stars. Nothing was beating what Nowell did on Thursday night, in a game where he had 20 points and the aforementioned record-breaking 19 assists.
Nowell created, assisted or scored 69 of Kansas State’s 98 points in the overtime win. Every adjective in the book that remotely resembles something positive can apply to what the 5-foot-8 guard did against the Spartans.
For as great as Nowell was on the offensive end, he spent much of the second half sagging off defensively as he dealt with a nagging ankle injury after rolling it at the start of the second half. Still, he provided a crucial defensive stop, stripping Michigan State guard Tyson Walker for a turnover as he attempted to elevate for a 3-point attempt.
Best bucket: Nowell hit a mid-range stepback to give the Wildcats an 82-78 lead that was just a phenomenal 1-on-1 move.
Keyontae Johnson: 5 stars
Johnson was on the receiving end of numerous assists from Nowell on his record-setting night, but no score from him was bigger than the reverse alley-oop slam late in the final minute of overtime, which gave KSU a 94-92 advantage that they would never relinquish. Johnson shot the ball poorly in the games early moments and missed a 1-and-1 in the second half that would’ve given K-State a greater grip on its lead, but he finished with a team-high 22 points on greater than 50 percent (10 for 18) shooting from the floor.
Best bucket: Aside from the dunk, Johnson’s tone-setter on the first possession of overtime in which he went inside and up over A.J. Hoggard to five K-State an 84-82 advantage was great.
Cam Carter: 4.5 stars
Jerome Tang’s group rebounds as a group rather than via a one-man show, and while that seems routine, there’s an odd level of inconsistency from what is a good team. Against Michigan State, the Wildcats saw Carter grab six rebounds, one shy of the team-high. Add in three steals and zero turnovers — as well as a 5-for-6 shooting performance — and Carter had as good of a game as he could possibly provide.
There were a few defensive lapses from Carter and some of his fouls came from unwise decisions on MSU layups, that’s why I’d give him a 4.5 star performance.
Best bucket: Carter made a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer from the left wing late in the second half when the Wildcats trailed 70-67, knotting the game back up. It settled K-State back in and answered after a big shot from the Spartans on the other end.
David N’Guessan: 5 stars
David N’Guessan was on the receiving end of three of Nowell’s 19 assists. He finished off two great pick-and-rolls during the overtime period. He also was physical on the defensive glass and had a great block immediately after Johnson’s dunk in OT to keep KSU up 94-92.
Best bucket: There was so much fundamentally great stuff from N’Guessan finishing off Nowell’s passes, but the fadeaway late-shot-clock 3-pointer early in the first half was his most absurd basket of the night.
Nae’Qwan Tomlin: 4.5 stars
On a night where there was little defense being played — or at least played well — Tomlin had some great help-side defense. He was also the team’s leading rebounder, which is always worth bonus points on a team that doesn’t typically rebound the ball with any consistency.
With four of those rebounds coming on the offensive end, Tomlin was a key cog in creating second-chance points for the Wildcats. That was especially crucial given how Michigan State rebounded on its offensive end.
Tomlin’s missed dunk following a between-the-legs feed from Nowell could’ve given KSU a 51-41 advantage, instead it led to an MSU rebound and a 3-pointer on the other end which brought the game closer early in the second half.
Best bucket: Tomlin got an offensive rebound and laid the ball in to give the Wildcats a 77-70 lead and finish off a 10-0 run. It was crucial to KSU grabbing some control late in the second half.
Ish Massoud: 4.5 stars
Swish Massoud was in rare form on Thursday night in his home city. Massoud was catching ready to shoot the ball on each touch and took full advantage of each time that Markquis Nowell gave him the ball. Massoud shoots the ball with great form, but Tom Izzo probably thought his 5-for-8 shooting performance was lucky.
Defensively, Massoud only had two rebounds, but he provided some great recovery defense with a block on one of A.J. Hoggard’s drives when the MSU guard had dribbled past Massoud.
Best Bucket: With 4.7 seconds remaining on the shot clock in the final minute of overtime, Massoud made a fadeaway following a back-and-forth timeout sequence between Tang and Izzo. It gave the Wildcats a 96-93 lead and provided KSU with some breathing room on the defensive end.
Desi Sills: 2.5 stars
It was easy to feel bad for Desi Sills in this game. The senior guard from Jonesboro, Arkansas, was saddled with foul trouble early and often despite making some pretty minimal contact with the Spartans on four of his five fouls. On the positive end, he was still 50 percent shooting the ball and made both of his free throw attempts.
Best bucket: Sills splashed through a 3-point attempt in the game’s opening minutes that gave K-State a 5-0 advantage. It set the tone for a great shooting night for the Wildcats.
Bebe Iyiola: 1 star
The best thing you can say about Iyiola’s performance on Thursday night was that he made it very apparent early on that it was not a game that he would fit into. Much like the second round game against Kentucky, Iyiola came in and turned the ball with a moving screen and missed a defensive rebound leading to a second-chance Michigan State bucket.