Markquis Nowell’s record-breaking performance against Michigan State on MSG Special for the New York product

NEW YORK — What magic we witnessed in Midtown Manhattan on Thursday night. An NCAA tournament game for the ages and a record-breaking individual achievement that will go down in the cherished annals of the world’s most celebrated arena.

There’s Willis Reed’s legendary hobble in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals. Reggie Miller’s 25-point comeback in the fourth quarter/one-man against the Knicks in 1994.

Jordan’s double nickel. Kobe’s 61. Carmelo’s 62. Bernard King’s 60.

And on Thursday: Nowell’s 19th assist, that is. Until March 23, 2023, nobody had dropped that many pennies in a tournament game. The first: Nowell.

Kansas State’s Markquis Nowell, a (maybe) 5-foot-8 (maybe) whirling dervish from Harlem playing the first game of his life – and at the same time suddenly the best game of his life – at Madison Square Garden and impressive on a Sweet 16 stage, no less. Nineteen assists, each mandatory, to pull his No. 3 Wildcats past No. 7 Michigan State in a 98-93 overtime win and propel Kansas State into the Elite Eight.

K-State’s victory in the East Regional semifinals produced both the first overtime and best game yet in this incredibly entertaining 2023 NCAA tournament.

The Garden and the March Madness. It’s hard to get better.

In the spotlight: Nowell. The smallest player on the floor became the biggest star of the night – and perhaps the brightest of this blessed tournament. Nowell, who grew up a few dozen blocks north of Madison Square Garden, had 20 points and five steals for those 19 assists.

College basketball has never seen a player with such a stat line in 14 years.

“This is the best game I’ve ever had,” Nowell said to teammates Ismael Massoud and Keyontae Johnson as they paused in the back hallways of MSG, waiting to head to the post-game press conference.

“It’s surreal, I don’t think it’s hit me yet,” Nowell said as he finally made it onto the podium.

Moments later, Nowell would be standing at his locker in the New York Knicks’ spacious locker room, surrounded by dozens of reporters. This was his night on his town, a performance that made him a lifelong legend of Kansas State and an overnight New York basketball legend.

The Wildcats’ little dime-disher was gorgeous in his distributions, daring in his shot selections, and blasphemed the Spartans all night.

“I determine how the game is going to go,” Nowell said Wednesday when asked how he expected Tom Izzo and Michigan State to act against him. “They’ve got all kinds of Hall of Fame coaches who’ve been tracking me down and trying to stop me, so I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.”

How’s that for a hallmark of New York?

“Today was special,” Nowell said after Thursday night’s win. “I can’t even explain how I feel right now. All I know is that I am blessed and grateful.”

The decisive game of this instant classic performance came in overtime with less than 70 seconds remaining. Nowell – who was playing on a bad right ankle after twisting it early in the second half – took the ball and, as he had done for much of the night, began a dialogue with Michigan State fans walking up the court.

“Look at this,” Nowell said.

Turns out he was speaking to Isaiah Thomas, the former NBA player who was there to cheer on Sparty with program legends like Mateen Cleaves and Steve Smith.

“And I’m like, ‘You’re not all going to win today,'” Nowell said.

What followed was only the hallmark of Nowell’s career and a guaranteed highlight on this year’s One Shining Moment. Wildcats coach Jerome Tang signaled a play. Nowell wanted none of this. He looked at Tang and fooled everyone but the one guy who knew exactly what was going to happen.

“It was just a basketball game between me and Keyontae,” Nowell said. “We knew how Michigan State played defense. They play high up and Keyontae just told me we made eye contact and he said lob lob. I just threw it up and he made a great game.”

Johnson made a hard cut from the corner to the basket. Nowell failed to look at an alley-oop from 35 feet, a perfect pass to give K-State a two-point lead with a minute left.

The boldness! You can see Nowell gesturing at MSU fans at the beginning of this video.

check again That’s brilliant.

“All 10 eyes of the defense have to look at him, and that allows everyone else to open up,” Tang said. “Not only does he see it, but everyone has to look at him when he has the ball in his hands.”

Tang and Nowell afterwards said it was a healthy disagreement between the player and the coach. It looks like a beautifully performed trick. Anyway, it brought down the house.

And considering Nowell did it all on a bad bike. For a brief flash, it looked like his night was about to end after four and a half minutes into the second half. He fell awkwardly onto his right ankle after attempting to set a floater on the low block. Back then, K-State was leading 50-46. Nowell was carried off the ground.

MSU went on a 9-2 run before coming back. He got taped, started to loosen the ankle and was there in less than three minutes of play. He didn’t leave the ground for the rest of the game. In fact, the injury was the only time Nowell was substituted out of the entire game. He played 43 of the 45 minutes of the tilt.

“I didn’t want to let a small injury like this, which happens all the time on the basketball court, keep me from playing in the Sweet 16 and getting into the Elite Eight,” Nowell said.

If Nowell’s alley-oop was the game’s defining play, his desperate bank-in-3-pointer play after getting back into the game was the most absurd microcosm of his unforgettable night. His scramble triple tied the game at 55 after stealing the ball from Malik Hall. After the banker fell properly, he practically hopped back on one leg as he got back on defense.

It was the game that kept the game going in the second half — Kansas State’s breakout had to stop Michigan State’s best run of the night.

“His IQ, his feel for the game, he gives everyone confidence,” Johnson said, “and when he came back I just felt like it – everyone[saw]him trying to work his way through his injury and we just wanted to fight for him.”

Nowell was the coolest guy in the building. As the Thriller went into overtime on Thursday, he hit a long 2-pointer to give Kansas State an 82-78, staying 1:03 in regulation, flashing a knowing grin and a reassurance gesture to MSU fans, when he resigned afterwards buried his latest piece of insolence.

A tiny guy with the biggest heart and an endless supply of moxie. Just the kind of player the country loves to fall in love with in March. Sure, he threw up a few no-no-nos — 3-point attempts that missed badly — but that was all part of the show. Michigan State put up an incredible fight. Another local, Tyson Walker, along with AJ Hoggard, almost made this a Michigan State history.

“It was like a Rocky fight tonight,” Nowell said. “We (were) back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. And some guys did some great tunes, so I want to give credit to Tom Izzo and Michigan State.”

But when the Spartans had open looks to shoot a 3-pointer and take this beauty to a second OT – Joey Hauser missed his chance – a turnover ended in the hands of you-know-who. A steal and a layup that bounced off the glass and fell through the net as the horn blared and the backboard flashed red, making Kansas State its 14th Elite Eight in program history.

“This one was special, before my hometown, before the city that loves me,” Nowell said.

Injuries, big games, trash talk, big shots, the postseason. A night to remember at Madison Square Garden.

“I knew he wasn’t going to stay away,” Tang said. “This guy didn’t come here to hurt his last college game.”

They didn’t come to win just one more either. As Nowell, Massoud and Johnson partied on the way to the post-game press conference, Massoud pointed out to Nowell that he was the #1 trending topic on Twitter “in the WORLD”.

“Three more wins,” Johnson told Nowell in the back halls of MSG. “I’ve never been to Houston.”

At that moment, Nowell couldn’t stop smiling. He was practically hidden between the large bodies around him. Here he was, the star of the night in this basketball-loving town, hiding behind his buddies. He soon reappeared for his moment.

The Little Apple player returned home to the Big One, continuing one of the tournament’s best stories — and expanding on one of college basketball’s most surprising stories of the season. Markquis Nowell’s record-breaking performance against Michigan State on MSG Special for the New York product

Chris Estrada

Chris Estrada is a 24ssports U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Chris Estrada joined 24ssports in 2021 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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