GREENSBORO, N.C. – Clutch 3-pointers by junior Ismael Massoud and senior Keyontae Johnson in the last 2:21 helped lift No. 15/13 Kansas State to a 75-69 win over Kentucky and a trip to New York City for the Sweet 16 on Sunday afternoon in the second round of the East Regional before 16,517 fans at the Greensboro Coliseum.
K-State (25-9) advances to the East Regional Semifinals at Madison Square Garden in New York City, where the Wildcats will play the winner of the game between No. 2 seed Marquette (29-6) and No. 7 seed Michigan State (20-12) on Thursday, March 23 at a time to be determined.
It will be the 18th trip to the Sweet 16 for the Wildcats, including the first since 2018.
Down 62-61 with 2:43 to play, Massoud gave the Wildcats the lead for good with a deep 3-pointer from the right wing with 2:21 to play that was followed by another deep triple from Johnson on an offensive rebound from junior David N’Guessan at the 1:23 mark. Senior Markquis Nowell continued the 8-0 spurt with a pair of free throws that extended the lead to 69-62 with 37 seconds.
Kentucky (22-12) was able to get a basket from senior Oscar Tschiebwe to close the gap to 69-64 with 23 seconds, but Nowell and fellow senior Desi Sills clinched the game at the free throw line with 6 consecutive makes.
Four Wildcats scored in double figures led by a special performance from the Harlem native Nowell, who was one assist shy of consecutive double-doubles, as he finished with a game-high 27 points, 9 assists and 3 steals in playing all but 16 seconds. After his 17-point, 14-assist performance in the win over 14-seed Montana State on Friday night, Nowell combined for 44 points and 23 assists in his first two NCAA Tournament. He is one of two players since 1990, along with Murray State’s Ja Morant, to combine for 40 points and 20 assists before the Sweet 16.
Johnson recovered from a tough start to finish with 13 points, including 7 in the second half, to go with 4 rebounds and 3 assists. He has now scored in double figures in all but one game.
Junior Nae’Qwan Tomlin and Sills each added 12 points.