Markquis Nowell honed his game on the outdoor courts of Manhattan, but had yet to rule the court inside Madison Square Garden.
His old CHSAA rival Tyson Walker also showed plenty of magic trying to stop the spark plug 5-8 in a classic Sweet 16 game that at times resembled a bit of Ali-Frazier in their back-and-forth fight on Thursday for the night.
Nowell, whose appreciation of being a New York shooting guard oozes from his imagination on the court to his personality off the court, took the more than 19,000 Garden crowd on an emotional journey Thursday night, guiding his team of Manhattan, Kansas, to a 98-93 overtime win over Michigan State in the Sweet 16.
For a little sauce, he even channeled a bit of Willis Reed, who was coming back from an ankle injury in the second half to stem the tide against the plucky Spartans.
Nowell scored 20 points and dished out an NCAA Tournament-high 19 assists, while the equally inspiring Keyontae Johnson had 22 points to lead third-seeded Kansas State (26-9). East Harlem product Ismael Massoud wouldn’t be far behind for the Wildcats either, scoring 15 points, including going 4-for-6 from three in tough situations, but also his long shot from the baseline gave the Wildcats a three-point lead with 12.5 seconds left. in overtime
Nowell put an exclamation point on the end as he stripped Walker’s tying 3-point attempt, grabbed the loose and dribbled the length of the court to score at the buzzer.
Kansas State advances to play Thursday’s cup winner between Tennessee and Florida Atlantic.
Walker, the product of Cristo Rey, had 16 points and five assists, including the tying layup to force overtime with five seconds remaining. AJ Hoggard had 25 points and Joey Hauser added 18 for the Spartans (21-13), who seemed to respond to almost every hit Kansas State threw at them.
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The little engine from Kansas State took advantage of his blacktop game with backdoor passes and challenged Michigan State in the paint, especially after his injury. Now you can add the Garden to those stories approaching Rucker Park, Dyckman Street, and West 4th.
After a back-and-forth first half in which Kansas State led 43-38, the Wildcats extended the lead to eight at 49-41 on a layup by Desi Sills.
The Spartans used a 3-pointer by Jaden Akins and a layup by Hoggard to get within 50-46 before Nowell injured his right ankle on a missed layup with 15:31 remaining in the game.
Nowell needed help getting off the court without putting weight on his ankle. He missed the next 2 1/2 minutes and the Spartans went to town on a 9-2 three-point play by Hoggard. Nowell was out of his seat at one point, bouncing on her good leg and yelling at her teammates to keep her close to him.
After being blindfolded, Nowell returned to a standing ovation from the Kansas State crowd and proceeded to hit a lopsided 3-pointer with the shot clock running down and a storybook game ensued from both sides.
Kansas State ultimately led 77-70 before the Spartans’ comeback comeback, with Walker hitting a 3-pointer.
Nowell’s jumper with 1:04 to go gave Kansas State an 82-78 lead, but a layup by Malik Hall and a layup by Walker forced the extra frame when Nowell’s layup at the buzzer hit the rim. .