Tom Izzo was mostly gracious after the Kansas State basketball team outlasted Michigan State 98-93 for a thrilling Sweet 16 victory on Thursday at Madison Square Garden.
When the Michigan State coach was asked about the Wildcats, he said things like “they made big plays” and “I give them a lot of credit.”
But Izzo also made one comment that will probably come across as sour grapes with K-State fans. It was hard for him to get over the fact that Markquis Nowell and David N’Guessan both made an unlikely three-pointer against the Spartans.
“They banked in two shot-clock threes,” Izzo told TBS during his postgame interview. “They made some big plays, but some of those big plays weren’t big plays. They were lucky plays.”
Nowell, on the other hand, had nothing but good things to say about the Spartans after the game.
“They played a tremendous game on the offensive end and the defensive end,” Nowell said after delivering a NCAA Tournament record 19 assists. “It was like a Rocky fight tonight. We were going back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. Some guys made some big-time plays, so I want to give credit to Tom Izzo and Michigan State.”
To be fair, nobody wins an instant classic like the one that K-State and Michigan State played without at least a little bit of good fortune. And the two shots Izzo was referring to were extremely fortunate for the Wildcats.
The first came from N’Guessan when he drained a turnaround three at the end of a possession in the first half. The shot did not bank in off the glass as Izzo remembered. It hit nothing but net. But N’Guessan, who has only made five three-pointers this season, did shoot from nearly NBA range with shot-clock winding down.
He gave the Wildcats an early 12-8 lead.
The second three-pointer was banked in and it came from Nowell when he was off balance and leaping forward just to get an open look. His shot appeared to have no chance, but it clanged in, too.
“It was a prayer that I threw up,” Nowell said. “But it went in and the prayer was answered.”
Was that three-pointer the result of luck? Was it skill? Was it a combination of both? That is up to the eye of the beholder.
Bottom line: It was painful for Izzo to watch them go through the net and for his team to eventually lose.
“I give a lot of credit to Kansas State, but boy, it was their night,” Izzo said, “with some of those shots that went in.”