That one hurt. It hurt because Michigan State had its opportunities to take that game. But they could never string together two consecutive good possessions, one on each end. If MSU scored, KSU scored right back. If MSU got a defensive stop, they did not score on their ensuing possession. This is probably the shortest post-game article I will ever write and that is because there really is only one thing to say about this game.
The best player on the court was Markquis Nowell, it wasn’t even particularly close, and he was the difference. MSU simply could not stop him from doing what he wanted. He set the record for assists in an NCAA tournament game, breaking a record from the 80s. He was dribbling into the lane at will, regularly getting around defenders guarding him on the perimeter, and then passing it to an open teammate after a help defender came his way. Many of these passes were of the no-look variety. He single-handedly could fill tonight’s SportsCenter Top Ten with just his assists. But he also scored 20 points and had 5 steals including the rip on MSU’s last possession when they needed a 3 to tie the game. Some of his shots just left me shaking my head. At one point, I think he made a shot from halfcourt with his back to the basket and a blindfold on. I felt like I was watching “White Men Can’t Jump” and Billy Hoyle was making circus shots and shouting “I’m in the f#^%!ng zone.”
In basketball, more than any other team sport, the best player can determine the winner of the game. That’s what happened today. Nowell was better than Hoggard, better than Walker, better than Hauser. MSU gave a valiant effort on their offensive end, obviously, keeping the outcome in doubt until the final seconds of overtime. But getting that stop after a score or opening up a two-possession lead remained elusive throughout the 2nd half and extra session. And watching the game, you just knew Nowell was going to do something amazing to swing the game back to his team’s advantage. Our defense looked lost, often seeming just as much a spectator to Nowell’s spectacle as the fans in the front row. So that is all there is to it. All we can do is congratulate this guy on another great game.
And now the countdown to next year’s highly anticipated, top-ranked recruiting class begins. Final Four in 2024?