A magical season for the Kansas State Wildcats has finally come to an end as they fell to Florida Atlantic 79-76 in the Elite Eight on Saturday night.
It was a close contest throughout as neither team held a lead larger than eight points. With such a tight game that margins were razor thin for either side, and the Wildcats just could not keep up on the glass or at the free throw line.
Florida Atlantic outrebounded the Wildcats 44 to 22 on the night, including the Owls securing 14 offensive rebounds. FAU also held an advantage at the free throw line as they went 18 for 22 at the stripe while Kansas State went 12 for 18.
Even in a losing effort senior guard Markquis Nowell put on one final show for the fans in attendance and watching at home. In his final game as a Wildcat Nowell finished the night with 30 points and 12 assists, and after the game was named the East Region’s Most Outstanding Player.
This entire season has been tremendous for Nowell and as it all comes to an end, Nowell has made sure to remain grateful of his final year at K-State.
“I’m very grateful. I had a tremendous year with my teammates and my coaching staff. Had a lot of fun,” Nowell said. “Just looking back at how hard we worked to get to this point, man, I’m just thankful for the journey. I’m thankful for my teammates and everybody behind the scenes. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Another major factor in the loss for the Wildcats was foul trouble, particularly for senior forward Keyontae Johnson who ended up fouling out of the contest with 2:44 left in the game.
It was a tough way for Johnson’s one season at K-State to come to an end, particularly after all he has gone through the past two years.
Johnson collapsed on the court during a game while he was playing for Florida in 2020 and wondered if he would ever play a game. Johnson battled all the way back and transferred to Kansas State to play his final year this season with the Wildcats.
Playing just 18 minutes due to those fouls surely is not how Johnson, nor his head coach Jerome Tang or his teammates, wanted Keyontae’s career to come to an end.
For head coach Jerome Tang this loss puts an end to a surreal first season as a head coach at the Division One level. When Tang took over the team he had just two players on the roster, but did not let that discourage him on what could be built in just one year.
Jerome Tang finishes his first season with the most wins in a debut season for a Kansas State head coach, and also became the first Big 12 coach in conference history to win his first three NCAA tournament games.
This was a team of transfers that Tang amassed and that gelled into a cohesive unit, and Jerome Tang knows how special of individuals it takes to get that to work.
“All these dudes, they’re incredible human beings, and they learned each other’s stories,” Tang said. “And because they learned each other’s stories, they could empathize with them, they could understand, and when things didn’t go well, they were there for each other.”
Kansas State will now head into the offseason with renewed expectations after such a great first season under Jerome Tang.
The Wildcats will have to replace six seniors who are expected to graduate and move-on to their post collegiate basketball careers.
Jerome Tang showed though that while he may have to bring in a lot of new faces to this team, nothing will be out of reach for the Wildcats in year two.
Tune into Mic’d Up with Jake and Fulton from noon-3 and 580 Sports Talk with Brendan and Dan from 3-6 on Monday for their reaction to the game
Click below to hear from Jerome Tang and the players following the Elite 8 loss