It was a battle of Wildcats from Greensboro, North Carolina, on Sunday afternoon when No. 3 seed Kansas State and No. 6 Kentucky took the court. After a long, back-and-forth game, Kansas State is the one moving on after defeating Kentucky, 75-69.
This is Kansas State’s first Sweet 16 appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2018.
With just under three minutes to play, Kentucky’s Cason Wallace made a layup that gave them a 62-61 lead, but Kansas State was ready to answer that bucket.
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Ismael Massoud took a pass from Markquis Nowell and put up a three-pointer to take the lead back and splashed it for the 64-62 advantage.
After a miss from Chris Livingston of Kentucky, trying to match Massoud’s three, Kansas State went right back down the floor and gave their star player, Keyontae Johnson, the chance to separate a bit from Kentucky.
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Johnson got his one-on-one matchup and didn’t squander the opportunity, as he stepped back and rained a three-pointer from the right wing and hit it to put Kansas State up, 67-62.
Kentucky wouldn’t be able to answer, which led them to start intentionally fouling with the hope Kansas State would miss their free throws. But Nowell and Desi Sills were a combined 8-for-8 to end the game despite Kentucky trying their best to get back in it.
Nowell was Kansas State’s leading scorer as the senior point guard dropped 27 points – he averaged 16.8 this season – with nine assists and two rebounds. Johnson also finished with 13 points, four boards and three assists.
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On the Kentucky stat sheet, Antonio Reeves, the team’s second-leading scorer with 14.6 points per game, was ice cold when he put the ball up. He went 1-of-15 from the floor, including nine of 10 missed three-point attempts. That certainly didn’t help head coach John Calipari.
But Wallace stepped up with 21 points on 9-of-11 shooting with nine boards and four assists. The team’s leading scorer, Oscar Tshiebwe, recorded a double-double with 25 points and 18 rebounds.
While Kentucky heads home, Kansas State goes on to face the winner of No. 2 seed Marquette and No. 7 seed Michigan State in the Sweet 16.