Kansas State guard Markquis Nowell put on a show in the first overtime game of the 2023 NCAA men's basketball tournament, leading the Wildcats to a 98-93 Sweet 16 win over Michigan State. Here's how Nowell etched his name into tournament history.
Playing in his hometown and in Madison Square Garden, Nowell broke the NCAA tournament record for assists with 19. He had 10 assists in the first half, but none of Nowell's assists were bigger than his record-breaking pass on an inbounds play with Kansas State leading by one point as 17.4 remained on the clock. The assist gave the Wildcats a three-point lead and gave Nowell sole possession of the assist record, passing UNLV's Mark Wade's record of 18 set in 1987. Furthermore, Nowell's 42 assists are the most by any player through the Sweet 16 since 1984.
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Conventional thinking may assume that if Nowell put on a passing clinic, he couldn't have scored that many points. However, Nowell is not conventional player. For one, he's only 5'8''.
But neither Nowell's height nor his passing stopped him from scoring 20 points in Kansas State's Sweet 16 win. In fact, he scored or assisted on 26 of 38 (68 percent) Wildcat field goals. Nowell's averaging 21.3 points per game in the NCAA tournament.
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At 5'8, one may think Nowell would be a defensive liability. But when Kansas State needed a defensive stop on the final defensive possession of overtime, it was Nowell who came up with the steal. It was his fifth steal of the game and it secured the Kansas State win.
Nowell's brilliant performance didn't come without adversity. The guard injured his ankle early in the second half, needing assistance off the court and attention from trainers.
But not even a bum ankle could stop him.
More important than the assist record, the points or the defense is the win. Nowell's play led No. 3 seed Kansas State to a win over No. 7 seed Michigan State, leading a team with a first-time collegiate head coach to the Elite Eight.
"One of the most incredible individual performances in NCAA tournament history," said play-by-play announcer Brian Anderson. Nowell's performance caught the attention of many and will go down in March Madness history.
That was a legendary display of controlling a basketball game Markquis. GG’s— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) March 24, 2023
Congratulations to Kansas State men's basketball team and especially point guard Markquis Nowell for becoming the NCAA Tournament record holder for assists in a game with 19 assists and 20 points.— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) March 24, 2023
@MrNewYorkCityy 💪🏽💪🏽💪🏽— Patrick Mahomes II (@PatrickMahomes) March 24, 2023
Markquis Nowell Ladies & gentleman!— Trae Young (@TheTraeYoung) March 24, 2023
Don’t Stop!! @MrNewYorkCityy
I am a fan!!!! @MrNewYorkCityy— Isaiah Thomas (@isaiahthomas) March 24, 2023
It's a performance that could put him in the conversation with other tournament legends like Kemba Walker, a player Nowell idolized growing up. With three more wins, Nowell could match his idol's feat in 2011... winning an NCAA title
And, yes, Markquis Nowell idolizes Kemba Walker. He’s watched Kemba’s UConn tape during this NCAA tournament run and his dad sent me this photo from him in middle school: https://t.co/cUxmhtRl3M pic.twitter.com/OM4VvsL8Lh— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) March 24, 2023