MANHATTAN, Kan. – Senior Markquis Nowell scored 21 of his game-high 23 points in the second half and overtime to help Kansas State rally from a double-digit halftime deficit to hand No. 24/24 West Virginia an 82-76 loss in both teams’ Big 12 opener on New Year’s Eve before 8,199 fans at Bramlage Coliseum.
Nowell finished the night 3 steals shy of a triple-double, dishing out a game-high 10 assists to go with a career-tying 7 steals in 43 minutes of action. It was just the sixth 20-point/10-assist game in school history, including the second such game by Nowell after his 29-point, 11-assist performance vs. Nevada on Nov. 22. He now has 12 career double-doubles (points/assists), including 7 in his career at K-State and 4 this season.
Nowell was joined in double figures by senior Keyontae Johnson, who scored 18 points on 6-of-13 field goals and 6-of-9 free throws, as well as fellow senior Abayomi Iyiola and junior Nae’Qwan Tomlin, who added 14 and 11 points, respectively. Iyiola, who was pushed back into the lineup after junior David N’Guessan was unavailable, went 6-of-7 from the field to go with a pair of clutch free throws, along with a team-high 8 rebounds.
The dramatic overtime victory pushed K-State’s winning streak to a season-tying 6 games, as the Wildcats (12-1, 1-0 Big 12) continued their best start to a season since 2016-17. K-State opened Big 12 play with a win for just the second time in the last 5 seasons, while it was first win in a home conference opener since 2016.
K-State has now defeated a Top 25 opponent in each of the last 16 seasons.
The victory was anything but easy, as the Mountaineers (10-3, 0-1 Big 12) jumped out a 17-3 lead behind their stellar defense, which held the Wildcats without a field goal for nearly 6 minutes until a layup by Johnson with 14:04 to play before halftime. WVU led by 11 at the half, holding K-State to just 21 points on 29 percent (9-of-31) shooting, including misses on all 8 3-point attempts.
Nowell sparked the Wildcats to open the second half, scoring the team’s first 5 points, as they slowly started to chip away at the double-digit deficit. He tied the game at 42-all on a free throw with just over 13 minutes to play before Johnson’s layup 13 seconds later gave them their first lead of the contest. Six different Wildcats scored in the 23-10 run out of halftime, including 11 from Nowell.
After WVU tied it at 44-all, K-State rattled off an 8-0 run, keyed by a 3-pointer from junior Ish Massoud, to take a 52-44 lead with 10:21 remaining. Just as the Wildcats had done to start the half, the Mountaineers made their own comeback, using a 10-4 run to take a 63-62 lead on a layup by senior Tre Mitchell with 1:03 to play. A Johnson jumper and 2 free throws from Iyiola helped K-State take a 66-63 lead with 13 seconds before a wild sequence capped by a 3-pointer from Kedrian Johnson sent the game into overtime.
The Wildcats grabbed the momentum to start the overtime period, scoring 11 of the first 15 points, including the first 6 points, to take a 77-70 lead with 1:24 to play. Although the Mountaineers got a 3-pointer from Mitchell on the next possession, Nowell answered with his own 3-point play with 53 seconds for an 80-73 advantage and they were able to salt the game away with 2 more Nowell free throws for the final margin.
For the game, K-State connected on 42 percent (29-of-69) from the field, including 49.1 percent (26-of-53) from inside the 3-point arc, but struggled from the free throw line, making just 61.8 percent (21-of-34) of its attempts. After hitting on 29 percent (9-of-31) in the first half, the Wildcats shot a combined 52.6 percent (20-of-38) in the second half and overtime. The team also tallied 48 points in the paint, which marked the fourth time in 5 games that they have posted 40 or more points in the paint.
WVU was led by pair of double-double performances from senior Tre Mitchell (16 points and 13 rebounds) and sophomore Mohamed Wague (10 points and 10 rebounds), while graduate transfer Emmitt Matthews Jr. added 12 points. All 9 players who saw action had at least one made field goal.
The Mountaineers connected on 41.3 percent, including 22.2 percent (4-of-18) from 3-point range, and made 52.6 percent (20-of-38) from the free throw line. While they dominated the paint, holding a 50-36 rebounding advantage, including 21 offensive boards they turned into 24 second-chance points, they saw the Wildcats force them into 20 turnovers, in which, they turned into 22 points.
The game was marked by physical play, as the teams combined for 53 personal fouls and 72 free throws attempted (with just 41 makes). Five players fouled out, including Iyiola and Massoud as well as Mountaineer players Johnson, Erik Stevenson and Joe Toussaint.
K-State has now 4 of the last 5 meetings with WVU at Bramlage Coliseum.
PLAYER(S) OF THE GAME
Senior Markquis Nowell collected his fourth double-double of the season and the 12th in his career with a game-high 23 points, 10 assists and a career-tying 7 steals in 43 minutes. It was just the sixth 20-point/10-assist game in school history and his second such game this season.
Senior Abayomi Iyiola posted season-highs in both points (!4) and rebounds (8) in just his second start of the season, connecting on 6-of-7 field goals and 2-of-2 from the free throw line in 22 minutes.
STAT OF THE GAME
79-59 – After falling down 17-3 to start the game, K-State outscored West Virginia, 79-59, in the final 37:25 of regulation and overtime, connecting on 48 percent from the field.
IN THEIR WORDS
Head coach Jerome Tang
“Very, very thankful for our fans who showed up and, you know, I thought their energy really gave us a boost when we didn’t necessarily start the way we wanted to and that was not our fault, that was all credit to West Virginia. I thought their speed, their athleticism, their pressure, it was like nothing that we have faced yet all year long and very similar to the start at LSU. But our guys settled down and adjusted to the speed and the physicality and then started ramping it up. I was very proud of our composure and our togetherness, and I think anybody who watches these guys play can really see how much they love each other, how much they enjoy playing with each other. And there’s such a joyful spirit and such a calm spirit about them in the tensest situations and so it’s really cool to be around them and to work with them.”
On how this game sets the standard for Big 12 conference play…
“Have you watched the games today? I think only one road team won today, that was Texas at Oklahoma by one point. You know it’s just hard to win in this league and you just have to be able to do your darndest, be as prepared as possible. Play as hard as you can, and if you come out on top, then you got to wash it and move on to the next one. And if you don’t come out on top you have to wash it and move on to the next one otherwise, then you start stacking L’s (losses).”
On how coming back from 14-point deficit shows team resiliency…
“It says a lot and we do have some very mature guys. We’ve got some really tough kids and they are resilient, and they work really, really hard. And also, they play with emotion, but they’re not emotional, right, so when you’re down they’re never bickering at each other or the never saying things to each other that you know, like will fuel a fire like they’re always speaking confidence to each other and that’s a lot of fun to coach and to be around.”
On Abayomi Iyiola playing in place of David N’Guessan…
“Next guy up, you know, that’s what it is. Baybe [Abayomi Iyiola] was gonna play and Ish [Ismael Massoud] and Tykei [Grenne] had a great week of practice. We had some meetings and just tried to be as clear with them and what I wanted from them, and they came out in practice and gave what we wanted and knew we were going to play them. The thing is we got to build depth, right, in this league you just can’t play with six or seven, we’re gonna get to eight, you know, maybe nine at times and we’ll see the foul trouble and stuff so yeah, not having David [N’Guessan] hurt but guys just stepped up and kept going.”
Senior Markquis Nowell
On coming back in the second half after trailing all game…
“We just stayed together; we stayed the course. It took us a minute to adjust to their speed and physicality. We got a good group discussion at halftime on what we needed to do to be better in the second half. And I feel like in the second half we did that pretty good.”
On seeing the floor so well and a team effort…
“Through experience and film. You know, but I also have a good chemistry with my guys. Majority of the time today it was a total team effort. You know we got stuff from Baybe [Abayomi Iyiola], Ish [Ismael Maasoud], Tykei [Greene], Nae’Qwan [Tomlin], Desi [Sills], so this was a total team effort, and you know West Virginia played really hard and they were really, really good team. And that’s why they were top-25 prior to today.”
On starting conference play with a win…
“Anytime you can get a win across the board is good for you, but to get a conference win versus West Virginia, a really good-coached team is always good.”