Skip to Content
College Basketball

Markquis Nowell Had Two Incredible Games. It Was Not Enough.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 25: Markquis Nowell #1 of the Kansas State Wildcats reacts during the second half of the game against the Florida Atlantic Owls during the Elite Eight round of the 2023 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament held at Madison Square Garden on March 25, 2023 in New York City.
Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

NEW YORK — On Thursday night, Markquis Nowell put together an all-time performance. He set the record for assists in a men’s NCAA tournament game. His encore was pretty darned impressive, too: 30 points, 12 assists, 5 steals. But with Kansas State down 3 in the final seconds, things just didn’t work out: The Wildcats did not get a shot off on their final possession, and Florida Atlantic advanced to the Final Four. His college career has ended. “When that final buzzer hit,” Nowell said, “it was a little tough because I love these guys so much that I want to continue to keep playing for the rest of my life with them.”

Kansas State trailed by three with 18 seconds left. They would not attempt a game-tying shot. Nowell drove for a layup with 8 seconds left. After two FAU FTs, Nowell had the ball. He passed it to Ismael Massoud. The buzzer sounded a few seconds later.

“We had a smaller group in,” Florida Atlantic coach Dusty May said. “We were going to switch all ball screens and make them hit a hard shot over us… we wanted to force them to hit a hard, hard shot and finish it with a rebound. So we had five quick, tough competitive players and we just wanted to make sure we kept the ball in front, and we didn't put two on the ball because there’s complementary guys that stepped up and banged in some tough shots.”

It looked like Nowell was going to put Kansas State over the top. FAU led for more than half the game. But K-State scored the first six points of the second half and led by 7 with 12 minutes left. Nowell was fabulous. The center-court logo at the tournament is large, but he was still maybe five feet behind the line when he hit one of his threes. A few minutes later he stepped back and banked in a three at the end of the shot clock. It looked like his night.

And it was. He won Most Outstanding Player of the East Regional. Per stats guru Mike Lynch, his 31 assists over two games is a record for a regional semi and finals. It smashed the old record; Magic Johnson had just (“just”) 25 in 1979. Many of the passes and shots he made were highlight-reel worthy. He was the best player on the court again. He got to put on a show at Madison Square Garden.

“I’m happy and grateful that I got the opportunity to play in Madison Square,” he said. “I always dreamed of something like this, just playing here, being here, playing my heart out. I feel like I gave my heart and soul to this game for these past couple games because I wanted to see these guys win and smile and know what the standard is for winning.”

Already a user?Log in

Welcome to Defector!

Sign up to read another couple free blogs.

Or, click here to subscribe!

If you liked this blog, please share it! Your referrals help Defector reach new readers, and those new readers always get a few free blogs before encountering our paywall.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter