NEW YORK — Markquis Nowell is Mr. New York City. He’s not shy about this fact.
The moniker serves as the Instagram handle for the Kansas State guard , and after his performance on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden, he’s daring anyone to challenge him for the throne. No. 3 Kansas State entered the game as slight underdogs to No.
7 Michigan State, but behind a heroic effort from Nowell that looked straight from the hardcourts of the Big Apple, the Wildcats prevailed in overtime, 98-93. “I was pumped up about being in that place of fire that coach always talks about, and I love that,” Nowell said, sitting in the locker room of the New York Knicks, after the win. “It’s the most intense part of the game.
It’s usually the end of the game where you’re close to winning, and when everybody is just intense and focused on winning. “That’s the place I love being in,” he added. “‘Cause that’s where stars are made.
” Nowell broke the all-time NCAA Tournament record for assists in a single game — a record had stood since UNLV’s Mark Wade dished 18 assists in 1987. That’s 12 years before Nowell was born, for those keeping count. Nowell finished the night with 19 dimes, none of which was bigger than the alley-oop he threw in overtime.
With the game knotted at 92-92, Nowell dribbled up the court, looked into the star-studded crowd at MSG, and talked his talk — to none other than NBA legend Isiah Thomas. The Bad Boy Piston was apparently joined by a group of Michigan State fans, and Nowell wasn’t about to let that slide in his city. So he proclaimed, “Watch this,” before throwing a lob pass to superstar teammate Keyontae Johnson, who slammed home with a reverse.
“Dang, I’ve got to watch what I say,” Nowell said with a laugh in the postgame press conference. “Yeah, I was talking to Isiah Thomas because I think he had a friend over there, and he was rooting for them. And I’m like, ‘Y’all not going to win today,’ and I just kept looking at him for some added motivation.
” The game was a homecoming for Nowell, who grew up in New York City. Not unlike Kemba Walker — the UConn star who helped the Huskies win a national championship in 2011 — Nowell made the most of his moment at the Garden. “I grew up on 109th and Lexington,” Nowell said on Wednesday.
“I stood in the park just grinding, working on my game. I had a good supporting cast who was willing to work me out at all different times of the hour. And it was just a rough neighborhood, but I didn’t let that affect me because I knew that God had a bigger plan.
” For a moment, it looked as though his homecoming would be cut short. Early in the second half, Nowell went down with what looked like an ankle injury. As he hobbled across the court, it was unclear if the Wildcats’ talisman would be able to finish out the game.
But even hobbling, Nowell refused to be denied. “I wasn’t going to let a little injury like this that happens on the basketball court all the time to stop me from playing in the Sweet 16 and advancing to the Elite 8,” Nowell said after the game. His coach knew it too.
“When I saw Markquis go down and hobble off, I knew he wasn’t staying off,” Jerome Tang told reporters. “That dude didn’t come here to be injured on his last college game, so I knew he was coming back in. ” Nowell got his feet back under him and played out the end of the game, including five minutes of overtime.
When the final seconds came, Nowell’s ankle was good enough to make the game-sealing steal. He finished with an exclamation point, driving the court for a lay-up. With the win, Kansas State advances to the Elite Eight, with one more game to play back at the Garden on Saturday standing between the Wildcats and a spot in the Final Four.
Mr. New York City will be ready for his encore. .