GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands – Kansas State once again used a huge first-half performance to carry itself to victory, as the Wildcats advanced to the semifinals of the Cayman Islands Classic with a 77-57 win over Rhode Island on Monday night before 1,256 fans at The John Gray Gym.
K-State (4-0) will take on Nevada (5-0) in the second semifinal game on Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m., CT.
The Wildcats, who remained unbeaten under first-year head coach Jerome Tang, scored 44 points in the first half on a blistering 58.1 percent (18-of-31) shooting to build as much as a 21-point lead. On the defensive end, the Rams (1-3) were held to 31.3 percent (10-of-32) shooting, including 12.5 percent (1-of-8) from 3-point range.
Although the second half was plagued by sloppy play with a combined 23 turnovers, including 13 by K-State, the lead never dipped below 15 points, and grew to many as 24 in the waning minutes.
Junior Nae’Qwan Tomlin led a balanced attack with 15 points, including 13 in the first half, while senior Keyontae Johnson and junior David N’Guessan added 14 and 12 points, respectively. Johnson has now scored in double figures in all 4 games as a Wildcat, while N’Guessan and Tomlin each recorded new season-highs. Tomlin also added 5 blocked shots, which were the most by a Wildcat since Jordan Henriquez-Roberts in 2013.
K-State had 20 assists on 28 made field goals, including a sensational performance from senior Markquis Nowell, who was responsible for 12 of those assists to go along with 9 points and 5 rebounds in 27 minutes. The 12 assists tied for the fourth-most in a single game in school history and were the most since Steve Henson collected 12 assists against Oklahoma State on Feb. 25, 1989. The total was one assist shy of Nowell’s career-high of 13 that he accomplished twice while playing at Little Rock.
Nowell now has totaled 9 career games of at least 10 assists, including 4 at K-State. The 12 assists gave him 499 in his career, as he closes on the distinction of being one of just two active Division I players (Tennessee State’s Junior Clay) with 1,300 points, 500 assists and 200 steals.
For the game, K-State connected on a season-high 52.8 percent (28-of-53), including 43.8 percent (7-of-16) from 3-point range, and hit on 77.8 percent (14-of-18) from the free throw line. More than half (38) of the team’s 77 points came in the paint, while the Wildcats once again took advantage of their opponent’s turnovers, turning 16 Ram miscues into 21 points. The team has forced their first 4 opponents into 86 turnovers.
Rhode Island shot 32.7 percent (16-of-55) from the field, including 16.7 percent (2-of-12) from 3-point range, with a third of its points coming from the free throw line (19). Sophomore Ishmael Leggett led the Rams with 13 points on 4-of-11 shooting and 5-of-7 free throws, while sophomore Brayon Freeman added 11 points from the bench.
The winner of Tuesday’s second semifinal between K-State and Nevada will play the winner of the first semifinal between Akron (3-1) or LSU (4-0) in the Championship game on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., CT. The Wolf Pack knocked off previously unbeaten Tulane, 75-66, in the first game of the night session, while the Tigers defeated Illinois State, 77-61, and the Zips defeated Western Kentucky, 72-53.
HOW IT HAPPENED
With score knotted at 2, a 12-0 run jumpstarted the Wildcats, as four different players (Cam Carter, Keyontae Johnson, David N’Guessan and Nae’Qwan Tomlin) contributed to the run, including 5 from Johnson. After the Rams closed to within 18-11, the team responded with 9 straight points, including a 3-pointer from Markquis Nowell, a jumper by N’Guessan and 4 points from Tomlin, for a 27-11 advantage with 10:22 to play.
The lead grew to 19 (33-14) after dunks from N’Guessan and senior Desi Sills, while K-State doubled up URI, 42-21, after a 3-pointer from Tomlin with 2:25 before halftime. However, the Rams were able to grab some momentum by finishing with 6 of the last 8 points to close to within 44-27 at the break.
K-State built its lead to 20 twice in the first 10 minutes of the second half, and while URI made several runs to into the deficit, never really threatened as both teams combined for 23 turnovers.
PLAYER(S) OF THE GAME
Junior Nae’Qwan Tomlin led the way with a game-high 15 points on 5-of-8 field goals, including 1-of-2 from 3-point range, and 4-of-5 free throws, to go with 6 rebounds and 5 blocks in 26 minutes. The 5 blocked shots were the most since Jordan Henriquez-Roberts had 5 vs. La Salle on March 22, 2013.
Senior Markquis Nowell had a near double-double with season-high 12 assists, 9 points and 5 rebounds in 27 minutes. The 12 assists tied for the fourth-most in a game in school history and were the most by a Wildcat since Steve Henson also dished out 12 against Oklahoma State on Feb. 25, 1989.
STAT OF THE GAME
52.8/58.1 – K-State set season-highs for both field goal percentage (52.8) and first-half field goal percentage (58.1) in the win over Rhode Island while posting an assist on 20 of the 28 made field goals.
IN THEIR WORDS
K-State Head Coach Jerome Tang
On what Markquis Nowell did well tonight…
“He did a great job of reading the defense. And, and then, you know, figuring out the tags and making the right read and delivering the ball on time and on target. He’s really good.”
On the play of David N’Guessan…
“We really challenged him to use his speed, and athleticism and, you know, just make a difference out there. And he really responded well, and so I was very, very pleased and happy for him.”
On the planning for Nevada…
“Well, the scouts already done. We’re not going to show film till tomorrow morning to them on Nevada. We got to figure out how we can score against them. I think they’re like the number one two point field goal percentage defense in the country. And the number three, three point field goal percentage defense in the country. So, we have to figure out how to manipulate them so that we can get good shots.”
Senior Markquis Nowell
On his performance…
“First and foremost, it was a great team. I was just making the right plays, my teammates were getting open and just delivering it, and knocking some shots down. I gotta give all my credit to my teammates.”
On his assist total being the most by a Wildcat since 1989…
“Yeah, I heard it. I heard it in a locker room after the game, but that’s pretty big man. Twelve (12) assists are hard to come by. But when you have good teammates, like we do, on a special team, they make everything easier. So once again, I gotta give this accomplishment to my teammates.”
BEYOND THE BOXSCORE
- K-State moves to 4-0 to start a season for the first time since 2019-20.
- K-State is now 178-114 all-time in-season tournament play, in this, the 87th such tournament in school history… The win snapped a 5-game skid in in-season tournament play and was the first since the 2019 Paradise Jam Championship Game… This is the first appearance in the Cayman Islands Classic.
- K-State is now 163-52 in non-conference play since 2006-07, including 23-22 at neutral sites…
- This was the first all-time meeting between K-State and Rhode Island.
- K-State is now 29-19 vs. current member of the Atlantic 10, including 5-4 at neutral sites.
- K-State used a starting lineup of fifth-year senior Markquis Nowell, sophomore Cam Carter, fifth-year senior Keyontae Johnson, junior Nae’Qwan Tomlin and junior David N’Guessan… It marked the third time using this lineup.
- Nowell made his 25th start at K-State, while Carter, Johnson and Tomlin all made their fourth starts in Wildcat uniforms and N’Guessan his third… It was Johnson’s 59th start in college (other 55 at Florida), the eighth for Carter (other 4 at Mississippi State), third by N’Guessan (all at K-State), while Tomlin made his fourth Division I start.
- K-State scored 77 points on a season-best 52.8 percent shooting (28-of-53), including 43.8 percent (7-of-16) from 3-point range, and connected on 77.8 percent (14-of-18) from the free throw line… The team connected on a season-high 58.1 percent (18-of-31) in the first half.
- K-State has had at least 3 double-digit scorers in each of the first 4 games.
- The 38 points in the paint and the 22 fast-break points were both season-highs.
- K-State scored 21 points off 16 turnovers by Rhode Island… The Wildcats have now forced 86 turnovers through its first 4 games, including 20 or more in each game… The team had 31 points off 26 UTRGV turnovers, 19 points off 22 California turnovers and 26 points off 22 Kansas City turnovers.
- K-State held a narrow 36-32 rebounding advantage, including 10 second-chance points off 10 offensive rebounds… Four Wildcats had at least 5 rebounds.
- The bench was once again productive with 20 points, including 7 by senior Tykei Greene.
- K-State took 2 more charges on night, and now have 17 charges taken through the first 4 games.
- K-State led 44-27 at the halftime on the strength of 58.1 percent (18-of-31) shooting, including 36 percent (4-of-11) from 3-point range… The Wildcats scored 26 points in the paint… Six players scored in the opening half, including a game-high 13 points from junior Nae’Qwan Tomlin.
- K-State has led in all 4 games this season.
- Junior Nae’Qwan Tomlin scored a game-high 15 points on 5-of-8 field goals, including 1-of-2 from 3-point range, and 4-of-5 free throws to go with 6 rebounds and 5 blocks in 26 minutes… He scored 13 of his 15 points in the first half… It was his third double-digit scoring effort of the year… His 6 rebounds were the third time he has had 6 or more… His 5 blocks were a season-high and the most by a Wildcat since Jordan Henriquez-Roberts had 5 vs. La Salle on March 22, 2013.
- Senior Keyontae Johnson scored 14 points on 3-of-8 field goals, including 1-of-4 from 3-point range, and 7-of-8 free throws to go with 5 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal in 30 minutes… It was Johnson’s fourth straight double-digit scoring game… He has now scored in double figures in 42 career games.
- Junior David N’Guessan scored a season-high with 12 points on 6-of-8 field goals to go with a team-best and season-high 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 1 block in 16 minutes… It was fifth career double-digit scoring game, including his first at K-State.
- Senior Markquis Nowell had a near double-double with his season-high 12 assists, 9 points, 5 rebounds and 1 steal in 27 minutes… His 12 assists tie for the fourth-most in a game in school history and are the most since Steve Henson had 12 vs. Oklahoma State on Feb. 25, 1989.
- Senior Tykei Greene was strong from the bench, posting 7 points on 2-of-3 field goals, including 2-of-2 from beyond the arc, with 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 block in 19 minutes… He now has 7 or more points in 3 of the Wildcats’ 4 games.
- Freshman Dorian Finister scored his first career points with 1:56 remaining in the contest.
K-State will now play Nevada (5-0) in the semifinals of the Cayman Islands Classic on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. CT.