Markquis Nowell recorded 17 points, matched his career high of 14 assists and added six rebounds and three steals to lead Kansas State to a 77-65 victory over Montana State on Friday night in NCAA Tournament East Region play at Greensboro, N.C.
Keyontae Johnson had team highs of 18 points and eight rebounds for third-seeded Kansas State (24-9). Nae’Qwan Tomlin added 13 points and David N’Guessan had 10 for the Wildcats, who will face sixth-seeded Kentucky (22-11) in Sunday’s second round.
“My teammates did a helluva job getting open, and that created space and created a bubble for me to score,” Nowell told CBS after the game.
Nowell didn’t mince words about having to face Kentucky next.
“Kill ’em. Simple as that. Kill ’em. They’re another team in our way, and we’re trying to advance to the next round. We know they’re a really good team with a really good coach, but they’re in our way and we’ve got to get it done.”
RaeQuan Battle scored 27 points for 14th-seeded Montana State (25-10), which had an eight-game winning streak snapped. Darius Brown II added 12 points and nine assists and Great Osobor added 11 points, seven rebounds and three blocks for the Bobcats.
Kansas State shot a stellar 58.2 percent from the field, despite being just 4 of 15 from 3-point range.
The Bobcats made 46.3 percent of their shots and were 6 of 21 from behind the arc.
Montana State trailed by eight with 2:47 left before Tomlin’s monstrous dunk started an 8-0 burst that pushed the lead to 16 with 1:57 remaining. A dunk by Desi Sills capped the outburst, and Kansas State closed it out.
Nowell had 10 points and seven assists and Johnson registered 10 points and six rebounds in the first half as Kansas State led 34-28. Battle had 13 in the half for the Bobcats.
The contest was last tied at 16 and the Wildcats led by as many as nine before settling for the six-point edge at the break.
Battle made back-to-back baskets early in the second half to bring the Bobcats within 36-32. Kansas State answered with a 13-4 run to stretch its lead to 13 when Sills converted a layup with 10:56 left in the game.
Montana State made a push and trailed 51-43 after a 3-pointer by Nick Gazelas with 8:26 remaining. But Nowell responded with a trey 20 seconds later and Tomlin added a basket to give Kansas State a 56-43 advantage with 7:31 left.
Two free throws by Battle and a 3-pointer by Brown pulled the Bobcats within 58-50 with 6:10 remaining.