NEW YORK – Markquis Nowell broke the NCAA Tournament record for assists in a game with 19, his last two on spectacular passes in the final minute of overtime, and Kansas State beat Michigan State 98-93 on Thursday night in a Sweet 16 thriller at Madison Square Garden.
Playing in his hometown and fighting through a second-half ankle injury, Nowell found Keyontae Johnson for a reverse alley-oop with 52 seconds left in OT to give the Wildcats (26-9) the lead for good in this back-and-forth East Region semi-final. He then threw an inbound pass to Ismael Massoud, who knocked down a jumper with 17 seconds left for a 96-93 lead.
With Michigan State needing a 3 to tie, Nowell stole the ball from the Spartans’ Tyson Walker and drove for a clinching layup at the buzzer. The 5-foot-8, Harlem-raised Nowell finished with 20 points and five steals in a signature performance at basketball’s most famous arena.
Johnson scored 22 points for the No. 3 seed Wildcats, who will face ninth-seeded Florida Atlantic on Saturday as they seek the program’s first Final Four berth since 1964.
A.J. Hoggard scored a career-high 25 points for seventh-seeded Michigan State (21-13). Joey Hauser added 18 points and Walker had 16, including a layup with 5 seconds left in regulation that forced the first overtime of this year’s NCAA Tournament.
UNLV’s Mark Wade had the previous NCAA tourney assists record with 18 during the Runnin’ Rebels 1987 Final Four win over Indiana.
Florida Atlantic 62, Tennessee 55
NEW YORK – Florida Atlantic, playing in just its second NCAA Tournament, moved within a victory of the Final Four by using a second-half push led by Michael Forrest to beat fourth-seeded Tennessee.
The ninth-seeded Owls (34-3) will play Kansas State in the East Region final.
Johnell Davis led the Owls with 15 points and Forrest finished with 11, eight in a crucial second-half run where FAU took control.
The Volunteers (25-11), who were looking for just the second Elite Eight appearance in program history, shot just 33 per cent – including 6 of 23 from 3-point range. Josiah-Jordan James and Jonas Aidoo scored 10 points apiece.
Gonzaga 79, UCLA 76
LAS VEGAS – Julian Strawther hit a deep 3-pointer with 6 seconds left to answer a 3 by UCLA’s Amari Bailey, lifting Gonzaga to a wild win over UCLA.
The second-seeded Bruins (31-6) stormed back from an eight-point deficit in the final 1:05 and took a 76-75 lead on Bailey’s 3 with 12.2 seconds left.
The Zags (31-5) brought the ball up the floor and Strawther stepped into a 3. His shot, off a drop pass, was reminiscent of the one Villanova’s Kris Jenkins made to clinch the 2016 national championship.
Tyger Campbell’s desperation 3 at the buzzer hit the back of the rim, sending the third-seeded Zags rushing off the bench and into the West Region final against UConn on Saturday.
Drew Timme scored 36 points for Gonzaga, his record 10th NCAA Tournament game with 20 points or more. Jaime Jaquez Jr. finished with 29 points and 11 rebounds for UCLA.
UCLA led by 13 at the half, but Gonzaga went ahead by 10 with 2:30 left in the game with UCLA in the midst of an 11-minute field goal drought. The Bruins rallied from there to regain the lead, with Jaquez converting two three-point plays in a 30-second span.
UConn 88, Arkansas 65
LAS VEGAS – Jordan Hawkins scored 24 points and UConn routed Arkansas to reach the Elite Eight.
The fourth-seeded Huskies (28-8) have outscored their three March Madness opponents by a combined 62 points and will play Gonzaga on Saturday for a spot in the Final Four.
The Huskies never trailed and led by as many as 29 points. Adama Sanogo scored 18 points, Alex Karaban had 11 and Nahiem Alleyene added 10.
Anthony Black led Arkansas (22-14) with 20 points. Ricky Council IV had 17 and Nick Smith Jr. scored 11 as coach Eric Musselman fell one game short of taking the Razorbacks to a third consecutive Elite Eight.