Stellar Second Half Lifts 14/12 K-State Past 19/18 Iowa State, 61-55

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MANHATTAN, Kan. – Senior Markquis Nowell scored 18 of his game-high 20 points in the second half to help No. 14/12 Kansas State rally back from an 8-point halftime deficit to defeat No. 19/18 Iowa State, 61-55, on Saturday afternoon before a sellout crowd of 11,000 at Bramlage Coliseum.

The win gave K-State (20-7, 8-6 Big 12) its 31st 20-win season in school history and the first since 2018-19. Head coach Jerome Tang became the fourth first-year head coach to win 20 games, joining Lon Kruger (1986-87), Bob Huggins (2006-07) and Frank Martin (2007-08). The Wildcats also earned their sixth AP Top 25 win of the season, which tied 3 other teams for second all-time and the most since the 2009-10 team won a school-record 7.

Down by as many as 10 points in the first half, including 8 points at the half, K-State used a combination of clutch shooting against the Big 12’s best scoring defensive team (61.6 ppg.) as well as its own stellar defensive performance in the second half to end a 2-game losing streak to Iowa State (17-9, 8-6 Big 12).

The Wildcats held the Cyclones to just 24 points in the second half on 21.9 percent (7-of-32) shooting, including 14.3 percent (2-of-14) from 3-point range, with 8 of those points coming from the free throw line. Overall, ISU was held to an opponent season-low 30.6 percent (19-of-62) shooting from the field, including 18.5 percent (5-of-27) from 3-point range, with the 55 total points being fewest allowed by the team in Big 12 play.

After scoring 23 points on 30.4 percent (7-of-23) shooting in the opening half, K-State was a much different team in the second half, scoring its 38 points on 44 percent (11-of-25) shooting, including 45.5 percent (5-of-11) from 3-point range, while converting on 11 of 12 attempts at the free throw line. For the game, the team finished at 37.5 percent (18-of-38) from the field, including 33.3 percent (7-of-21) from long range. The Wildcats also took advantage of their opponent’s mistakes while limiting their own, converting 14 Cyclone turnovers into 19 points, while allowing just 7 points off 11 turnovers.

After going 0-of-3 from the field with just 2 points in the opening half, Nowell powered K-State in its second-half performance, as he knocked down 3 triples in a pivotal 11-3 run in the first 5 minutes of the half that gave the home team their first lead since it was 5-2. The Cyclones regained the advantage with baskets on the next 2 possessions, but it was Nowell’s free throws with 13:35 that gave the Wildcats the lead for good.

ISU kept it close the rest of the way until an 8-2 run by K-State highlighted by a near mid-court 3-pointer by Nowell with 2:42 remaining gave the Wildcats the cushion they would need to close out the game.

Nowell was among two Wildcats in double figures, as he collected his team-leading ninth 20-point game of the season to go with a team-tying 6 rebounds and 5 assists. Fellow senior Keyontae Johnson added 15 points on 6-of-13 field goals to go with 6 rebounds and 2 assists in a game-high 38 minutes. With his assist total, Nowell continues his school record total (202) and becomes the first player in school history to eclipse 200 assists in a single season. Junior Ismael Massoud was solid off the bench with 9 points and 3 rebounds.

Senior Aljaz Kunc led the Cyclones with 15 points on 4-of-10 field goals, including 2-of-7 from 3-point range, and a 5-of-6 effort from the free throw line. Fellow senior Gabe Kalscheur posted 11 points on 4-of-14 shooting, while freshman Tamin Lipsey added 9 points, a game-high 7 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 steals.

K-State and Iowa State split the season series for the second straight season.


As expected, the teams battled back and forth in the early going before Iowa State grabbed the momentum with a 10-0 run to take a 12-5 lead at the 13:34 mark. K-State slowly chipped away at the deficit, tying the game at 17-all after a pair of free throws by senior Markquis Nowell and a layup by senior Keyontae Johnson.

ISU pulled back ahead on the strength of a technical on junior David N’Guessan, using a 12-2 run capped by a 3-pointer by senior Aljaz Kunc to build a 29-19 lead and force head coach Jerome Tang to take his first timeout with 2:29 before halftime. The Wildcats were able to cut into the deficit to 29-23 on a pair of free throws by Johnson and tip-in by junior Ismael Massoud, but the Cyclones finished off the half with a layup from senior Jaren Holmes to take a 31-23 lead into the break.

K-State came out on fire to start the second half, as the Wildcats used an 11-3 lead highlighted by 3 triples by Nowell to take a 37-34 lead with just over 15 minutes to play. Although the Cyclones regained the lead on back-to-back baskets, a pair of free throws by Nowell and a jumper by N’Guessan helped the Wildcats snatch the lead for good at 41-38 just before the second media timeout with 11:37 to play.

ISU closed to within one point on four occasions down the stretch before a free throw by Johnson helped start an 8-2 run that gave K-State a 57-50 lead with 1:12 remaining. A deep 3-pointer by Nowell was a highlight of the run that also included 2 free throws by the senior and layup by junior Nae’Qwan Tomlin.

The lead grew to a game-high 9 points at 61-52 after a layup by Johnson and 2 free throws by Massoud with 13 seconds to play before Gabe Kalscheur hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer for the final score.


Head Coach Jerome Tang

On the game…

“First of all, just want to thank the Lord for this opportunity. Man, blessed to do what I do and to work with these dudes. Life is never never easy, right? It’s never smooth sailing or always an upward climb, you know the ups and downs. And in the summer, I told our staff let’s find guys that we don’t mind losing with and our guys have been great over the last few games. And you know when things didn’t go our way and a lot of what didn’t go our way really doesn’t fall on their shoulders. It falls on me as the head coach and not giving them what they needed. And these last couple of days we did what we needed to do, gave rest and shortened our practices. You know that line in Miracle on Ice, ‘Legs feed the wolves,’ and that’s what we didn’t have the last few games, especially the Oklahoma game. I thought tonight we had legs because of how we prepared and actually more of what we didn’t do, rather than what we did do. Second thing is our crowd was incredible, right? Like, I mean, I think y’all know this better than I do. But I think we lost a few Big 12 games in a row or something like that and maybe sprinkled in with a win here with the Florida and the TCU game. Sometimes  you have fickle fans and they just show up when you’re winning but man our students, I asked them to show up and they showed up and I couldn’t be more proud of them and the energy that they gave us today propelled us to the win, because Iowa State did an incredible job. I don’t think either one of us made shots tonight, but our defense was there even when we were missing shots on both sides. And just another huge Big 12 game and this was a huge win for us as a team.”

On if he was pleased with the defensive intensity…

“Yeah, you know, I didn’t think at Texas Tech we played bad defense, for the most part, but we just turned it over a lot. And so, it’s hard to get stops when you get out in transition and outnumbered and so I thought our guys brought energy at Texas Tech. We just didn’t have execution. And then at Oklahoma, we just didn’t have legs. And so, we told them what we wanted to see it look like today and we gave them the rest that they needed so that they had legs, and I thought our guys were locked in. I mean really, really gave us the chance to have a chance to win the game.”

On his message to the team at halftime…

“It was just we’ve got to rebound the ball. They had more paint points than we did by like 10 and then we’ve got to make some shots. Like if we turn them over, we can get out and run and we’ll get some good looks, and we knew it was a 40 minute game. Nobody in the Big 12 really throws a knockout punch unless you’re just not ready to play. We knew it was gonna be a 40 minute game and a grinder and our guys showed their maturity and their toughness.”

On staying together through this tough stretch of losses…

“I mean, we worked really, really hard in the offseason and all of our goals are still ahead of us. Y’all and all our fans, everybody on the outside wants to win every game and then play like great, even when we win, ‘Well so and so didn’t play that well today, what do you think that was.’ Shoot, we’re just trying to win basketball games by one. If we win by one, we’re going to be really, really happy and some nights we’re not gonna win and that’s just part of being a competitor. The key is that you fight every night. And so, it wasn’t like we were just going to stop playing because things weren’t going our way. You don’t do that in life. These are life lessons more than basketball lessons that these guys are learning that you’ve got to stay in it. Things aren’t gonna go your way. And when you’re a husband and you’ve got kids and you gotta get up and go to work, if you’re sick, you still gotta get up and go to work. You don’t get to stay at home and sleep and say I ain’t feeling well, and those are the things that I hope that they’re taking from this that’s gonna help them. They’re gonna get up and go to work and they’re gonna come back home and when things are tough, they’re not going to run, they’re not going to stop, they’re not going to quit. To me, that’s the bigger lesson that I hope our guys are learning in all of this. And I mean, we’ve got a pretty good basketball team. We’re gonna win a few more games and we’re gonna be ready when the NCAA Tournament rolls around, and I don’t know how it’s gonna turn out, but I know we’re gonna compete.”

Senior Markquis Nowell

On getting off to a good start in the second half…

“It was very important because we know the first five minutes are important. And you know I told my guys we can’t come out lackadaisical. We’ve got to come out with energy, and that’s what we did.”

On the defensive performance…

“It was a better defensive game. I felt like we played really good on the defensive side, keying in on certain guys. Rebounding, even though they got a lot of offensive rebounds we won the rebound battle by two. So credit my guys who were down there battling with [Osun] Osunniyi and the rest of the guys.”

On what Desi Sills brought today in the starting lineup…

“He brings energy. He’s been bringing energy since day one whether he was on a bench or now he’s starting, so you get the same Desi. He’s gonna come in, play hard, play like it’s his last game. And today he gave us more space and gave us more driving lanes because he was out there. And you know he played well. You know that block was a big block. So you know, credit to him, that was a game changing play.”

Senior Ismael Massoud

On being productive even when the shots aren’t falling…

“When I’m coming in the game, after sitting down you watch, you see what the game was missing and stuff like that. Whether it’s making shots or not making shots like I was today, I just tried to do whatever it took to help my team win and make the guys here jobs easier. So whatever that was, I’ll just try to do.”

On the emotions in the halftime locker room…

“It’s never good to be down at halftime especially at home, but that’s why it’s two halves. That first half we had to take what we could and learn from it and we felt like we were playing good defense, but they were having too many points in the paint and they’re getting second chance opportunities. Credit to Quis [Markquis Nowell], he kind of challenged some of the big guys and stuff like that and just said you know, we’ve got to do better job rebounding and do our job, everyone got to do their job and not worried about doing other people’s job and you know, if everyone locks in on that, on this team, I feel like the sky’s the limit. So that’s just what we tried to do.”


Team Notes

  • With the win, K-State pushes its record to 20-7 overall, including 8-6 in Big 12 play… It is the 31st 20-win season in school history and the first since 2018-19… It is the best start since the 2018-19 team went 21-6.
  • Head coach Jerome Tang becomes the fourth first-year head coach in school history to win 20 games, joining Lon Kruger (1986-87), Bob Huggins (2006-07) and Frank Martin (2007-08).
  • K-State earned its sixth AP Top 25 win of the season, which ranks second all-time and the most since the 2009-10 team won a school-record 7 games against ranked opponents.
  • K-State snapped a 2-game losing streak and 2-game skid to Iowa State.
  • K-State collected its sixth sellout of the season (all in Big 12 play).
  • K-State now leads the all-time series with Iowa State, 145-92, including 84-29 in Manhattan and 24-11 in Bramlage Coliseum… It is the third-most played rivalry in school history… The 24 wins are the most against one opponent in Bramlage Coliseum… ISU owns a narrow 29-28 edge in the Big 12 era.
  • K-State held Iowa State to just 55 points on an opponent-low 30.6 percent (19-of-62) shooting, including 18.5 percent (5-of-27) from 3-point range… It was the fewest points allowed by the team in Big 12 play.
  • K-State is now 12-0 this season when holding an opponent to less than 60 points.
  • K-State made the most of Iowa State’s 14 turnovers, scoring 19 points off those miscues, while allowed just 7 points off 11 turnovers.
  • K-State had 13 assists on its 18 made field goals, as 4 players had at least 2 assists.
  • Iowa State held a 41-32 advantage, including 18 offensive rebounds, which resulted in 14 second-chance points… The Wildcats are 3-4 when losing the rebounding battle.
  • Iowa State led 31-23 at half on the strength of holding K-State to just 30.4 percent (7-of-23) shooting… Senior Aljaz Kunc led all scorers with 10 points, while senior Keyontae Johnson paced the Wildcats with 8 points and junior Ish Massoud added 7 points off the bench.
  • K-State is now 7-4 this season when trailing at the half.

Player Notes

  • K-State has now had at least two players score in double figures in all 27 games.
  • Senior Markquis Nowell led all scorers with 20 points on 4-of-13 field goals, including 4-of-9 from 3-point range, and an 8-of-8 effort from the free throw line… He added a team-tying 6 rebounds and 5 assists… It marked the 14th time this season he has led the team in scoring and 23rd time in his K-State career… It was his 28th career 20-point game, including his 12th at K-State and his team-leading ninth in 2022-23… He has now scored in double figures in 90 career games, including 43 at K-State and 24 in 2022-23.
  • Nowell dished out 5 assists to increase his school-record total to 202, becoming the first Wildcat to eclipse 200 assists in a single season.
  • Fellow senior Keyontae Johnson registered his team-leading 26th double-digit scoring game with 15 points on 6-of-13 field goals and 3-of-4 free throws to go with a team-tying 6 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal in a game-high 38 minutes… He now has 64 career double-digit scoring games.
  • Johnson now has at least 5 rebounds in 22 of 27 games.
  • Junior Ismael Massoud led the bench with 9 points on 2-of-6 field goals, including 1-of-5 from 3-point range, and a 4-of-4 performance at the free throw line to go with 3 rebounds in 19 minutes.
  • Senior Desi Sills earned his first start of the year, finishing with 4 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, a steal and a block in 33 minutes.


K-State continues its homestand with a visit from Big 12 leader and No. 9/9 Baylor (20-8, 9-5 Big 12) at 6 p.m., CT on ESPN2. The Wildcats won the first meeting, 97-95, in overtime on Jan. 7.

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