GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands – Senior Keyontae Johnson's jumper with 4.7 seconds helped lift Kansas State to a 61-59 win over LSU to capture the 2022 Cayman Islands Classic Championship on Wednesday night before 2,400 fans at The John Gray Gym.
The tournament title was the 17th in school history and the first since winning the 2018 Paradise Jam.
Johnson (16 points) and fellow seniors Markquis Nowell (18 points) and Desi Sills (16 points) combined for 50 of the Wildcats' 61 points, including 22 of their 28 second-half points, in which, the team rallied from an 11-point deficit with 17:27 to play.
Nowell was named the Cayman Islands Classic Tournament MVP and to the all-tournament team, while Johnson was selected to the all-tournament team. Nowell averaged 18.7 points and 9.0 assists in the 3-game tournament, while Johnson averaged a team-best 19.3 points on 53.6 percent shooting with 6.0 rebounds per game.
K-State (6-0) had to survive some nervous moments to earn the victory, as both teams called their full allotment of timeouts (2 each) before the last 4.7 seconds played out. LSU (5-1) was able to dribble up the court and seemingly tied the game at 61-all at the buzzer. However, the officials reviewed the play and waved the shot off after they discovered that the clock didn't start on time and the shot came after the game clock had expired.
It was a tale of two halves for the Tigers, who looked like the more rested team after playing in the early sessions in the first 2 days and breezing past their first 2 opponents by 16 and 15 points, respectively.
LSU scored 41 points in the first half on 47.1 percent (16-of-34), including 50 percent (5-of-10) from 3-point range, with just 3 turnovers, to build as much as a 12-point advantage right before halftime. Things changed in the second half, as the Tigers managed just 18 points on 36.8 percent (7-of-19) shooting, including 11.1 percent (1-of-9) from long range, to go with 14 turnovers. K-State took a season-high 6 charges on the night.
Down 11 points with 17:27 remaining, the Wildcats slowly chipped away at the deficit, as they got contributions from multiple players but most notably from Sills, who scored 7 points in a game-changing 15-3 run. A Sills layup and dunk by sophomore Cam Carter got the team to with 49-45 to force a timeout by LSU head coach Matt McMahon with just under 10 minutes to play.
The run continued with a 3-point play from Sills before Carter gave K-State its first lead since the opening moments of the first half at 50-49 with 7:47 remaining. Nowell followed with a layup for a 52-49 edge, but LSU regained the lead on a pair of free throws and a jumper by Trae Hannibal.
The teams went back and forth over the next few possessions before layups by KJ Williams and Adam Miller gave the Tigers a 59-57 advantage with 1:15 to play. Nowell was able to tie the game on a step back jumper with 49 seconds before junior David N'Guessan drew the Wildcats' sixth charge of the evening to give the Wildcats the ball back with 34 seconds remaining.
On K-State's final possession, Johnson mishandled the ball, but Sills was able to save it and feed him from the corner baseline to knock down the game-winning field goal with 4.7 seconds left.
Nowell scored his game-high 18 points on 6-of-14 field goals, including 2-of-5 from 3-point range, and 4-of-4 free throws, to go with 4 assists and 4 rebounds in 33 minutes. Johnson, who played just 13 minutes in the second half due to foul trouble, scored his 16 points on 4-of-7 field goals and 7-of-8 free throws. Sills, who provided a spark to the Wildcats from the bench, scored his season-high 16 points off 6-of-9 field goals, including 1-of-3 from 3-point range, and 3-of-3 free throws, to go along with game-high 5 assists in 33 minutes.
Carter also proved vital in the victory, snagging a career-high 7 rebounds – all on the defensive end – while posting 6 points, 1 assist and 1 steal in nearly 25 minutes.
For the game, K-State connected 41.7 percent (20-of-48), including just 26.7 percent (4-of-15) from 3-point range, and hit on 81 percent (17-of-21) from the free throw line. Once again nearly half the team's points came in the paint (28), while they scored 16 points off those 17 LSU turnovers.
LSU hit on 43.4 percent (23-of-53) from the field, including 31.6 percent (6-of-19) from long range, and made just 50 percent (7-of-14) of its free throws. Williams had a double-double with a team-high 17 points and 10 rebounds, while Justice Hill and Miller added 12 and 11 points, respectively.
K-State moved to 6-0 to start a season for the first time since 2018-19.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Senior Keyontae Johnson continued his strong play in the tournament by scoring the first 8 points for the Wildcats on 3-of-3 from the field, including 1-of-1 from 3-point range. However, a technical on Johnson after a 3-pointer sparked an 8-0 run that gave the Tigers a 15-8 lead at the 11:51 mark.
K-State was able to respond with a 6-0 run to close to within 15-14, but LSU connected on 3-pointers on 3 of the next 5 possession to push the lead to double figures at 28-18 with 6:56 on the clock. The lead grew to 12 after a free throw and jumper by the Tigers, forcing head coach Jerome Tang to call his first timeout with 5:31 remaining.
Moments later, the momentum grew even more for LSU, as Johnson was forced to the bench with his third personal foul at the 4:26 mark. Senior Desi Sills did his part to cut into the deficit with a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer to pull K-State to within 33-26, but another 5-0 spurt put the lead back at 12 with 1:32 before halftime.
The Wildcats were able to gain a little momentum from a technical on LSU's Adam Miller, as senior Markquis Nowell canned 4 free throws and added a 3-pointer that rolled around and fell in at the buzzer to put the halftime deficit at 41-33.
A pair of free throws by Johnson helped K-State close to within 41-35 to open the second half but a corner 3-pointer and a jumper put LSU back up by double figures. The Wildcats stayed in the fight, closing to within 47-41 on a pair of free throws by Johnson and junior David N'Guessan then forced an LSU timeout after a basket by Sills and a dunk by sophomore Cam Carter that pulled them to within 49-45 with 9:52 remaining.
K-State kept the momentum, as a 3-point play by Sills and baskets by Carter and Nowell gave the Wildcats a 52-49 lead with 7:23 to play. The Tigers retook the lead on a pair of free throws and a layup, but Nowell responded with his second 3-pointer of the night to put the Wildcats back ahead at 55-53 with 5:11 remaining.
The teams answered each other in the next 2 possessions before layups by KJ Williams and Adam Miller gave LSU a 59-57 lead with 1:17 to play. Nowell tied the game at 59-all on a step back jumper with 49 seconds before Johnson knocked down the winning shot with 4.7 seconds left.
PLAYER(S) OF THE GAME
Senior Markquis Nowell led all scorers with 18 points on 6-of-14 field goals, including 2-of-5 from 3-point range, and all 4 free throws to go with 4 assists, 4 rebounds and a steal in 33 minutes. He earned MVP honors after averaging 18.7 points and 9.0 assists in the 3-game tournament.
Senior Keyontae Johnson scored 16 points, including the game-winner with 4.7 seconds, to finish 4-of-7 from the field, including 1-of-1 from 3-point range, and 7-of-8 from the line to go with 4 rebounds in 27 minutes.
Senior Desi Sills posted a season-high 16 points off the bench on 6-of-9 field goals and 3-of-3 free throws to go with a game-high 5 assists in 33 minutes.
STAT OF THE GAME
41/18 – LSU scored 41 points in the first half on 47.1 percent (16-of-34), including 50 percent (5-of-10) from 3-point range, with just 3 turnovers, while the Tigers had just 18 in the second half on 36.8 percent (7-of-19) from the field, including 11.1 percent (1-of-9) from long range, with 14 turnovers.
IN THEIR WORDS
Head coach Jerome Tang
On the game…
"Man, what a great opportunity for our guys and then a great showing their selfless resilience and just how much they care and love each other. I think you saw their heart out there and love for each other. We didn't play very well in the first half at all and totally to be down eight was really good for us. We talked about making up for it in the second half and we were able to do so by forcing them into bad possessions with 14 turnovers after turning them over just 3 times in the first half. I thought our guys did an unbelievable job in the second half on their bigs. I'm just so proud of our guys, and been so thankful for this opportunity to serve in love them."
On getting stops in the second half…
"I don't know if there was a rallying cry, we felt that the person (Trae Hannibal) who was able to deliver the passes to KJ wasn't getting any pressure. Because we were concerned about his passing by not pressuring them and allowed him to have time to see to throw the ball into KJ. So in the second half, we just decided we're going to pressure and make it really hard for whoever it was, if they drove, they drove. So, I thought that was a good adjustment by the staff. And, and then the guys locked in and decided they were gonna fly around and wanted it a little bit more. We always say the toughest team wins. And I thought we were the tougher team."
Senior Desi Sills
On his emotions after finding out K-State won the game…
"It was all joy. We worked hard for this. We played as a team for each and every minute, and it paid off at the end. I was trying to be one of the leaders of the team (when Keyontae Johnson went out with 4 fouls) to step up and help us keep our poise. At the end of the game, when they called it, it was all joy, happiness and it's a blessing to be a part of the program."
On the ceiling for this team…
"The sky's the limit. I feel like we got every piece that we would want to take to any part of the country. This is only the beginning, we still got a long journey ahead and we're going to just push this to the side but we're going to celebrate tonight and try to go to the next step starting next week."
BEYOND THE BOXSCORE
- K-State captures its 17th in-season tournament title in school history and the first since winning the 2018 Paradise Jam… The Wildcats are now 180-114 all-time in-season tournament play, in this, the 87th such tournament in school history… The last 3 in-season tournament titles have come on islands (2011 Diamond Head Classic, 2018 Paradise Jam and 2022 Cayman Islands Classic).
- K-State moved to 6-0 to start a season for the first time since 2018-19.
- K-State is now 165-52 in non-conference play since 2006-07, including 25-22 at neutral sites.
- This was the first all-time meeting with LSU.
- K-State is now 168-155 vs. current member of the SEC, including 31-19 at neutral sites.
- K-State used a starting lineup of fifth-year senior Markquis Nowell, sophomore Cam Carter, fifth-year senior Keyontae Johnson, junior Nae'Qwan Tomlin and junior David N'Guessan… It marked the fifth time using this lineup.
- Nowell made his 27th start at K-State, while Carter, Johnson and Tomlin all made their sixth starts in Wildcat uniforms and N'Guessan his fifth… It was Johnson's 61st start in college (other 55 at Florida), the 10th for Carter (other 4 at Mississippi State), fifth by N'Guessan (all at K-State), while Tomlin made his sixth Division I start (all at K-State).
- K-State scored 61 points on 41.7 percent shooting (20-of-48), including 26.7 percent (4-of-15) from 3-point range, and connected on 81 percent (17-of-21) from the free throw line.
- Nearly half (28 points) came in the paint.
- K-State led for just 5:22 compared to 30:45 by LSU.
- K-State drew even on the glass with each team grabbing 30 rebounds.
- K-State scored 16 points off 17 turnovers by LSU… The Wildcats have now forced 114 turnovers through its first 6 games, including 20 or more in 4 of 5 games.
- The bench was once again productive with 19 points, including 16 by senior Desi Sills.
- K-State took a season-high 6 charges on night, and now have 27 charges taken through the first 6 games.
- LSU led 41-33 at halftime on the strength of 47.1 percent (16-of-34) shooting, including 50 percent (5-of-10) from 3-point range… The Wildcats connected on 50 percent (10-of-20), but just 33.3 percent (3-of-9) from long range… Senior Keyontae Johnson led all scorers with 10 points.
- The 8-point deficit was the largest of the season and the second straight game facing a deficit.
- Senior Markquis Nowell was named the tournament MVP, while senior Keyontae Johnson was selected to the all-tournament team… It was the first such MVP and all-tournament team honor for Nowell, while Johnson earned all-tournament team accolades for the third time in his career after being name MVP of the 2019 Charleston Classic and 2019 Basketball Hall of Fame Invitational while at Florida.
- Nowell finished with 18 points on 6-of-14 field goals, including 2-of-5 from 3-point range, and 4-of-4 free throws to go with 4 assists, 4 rebounds and a steal in 33 minutes… He has now scored in double figures in 70 career games, including 23 in his K-State career.
- Johnson had 16 points on 4-of-7 field goals, including 1-of-1 from 3-point range, and 7-of-8 free throws to go with 4 rebounds in near season-low 27 minutes… It was his sixth straight double-digit scoring game… He has now scored in double figures in 44 career games.
- Senior Desi Sills once again strong from the bench, posting a season-high 16 points on 6-of-9 field goals, including 1-of-3 from 3-point range, and 3-of-3 free throws to go with a game-high 5 assists in 33 minutes… He now has 53 career double-digit scoring games, including 3 at K-State.
- Sophomore Cam Carter grabbed a career-best 7 rebounds (all defensive) to go with 6 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal in 25 minutes.
- Junior David N'Guessan took 3 of the team's season-high 6 charges.
K-State continues its play away from home next week, as the Wildcats travel to Indianapolis, Ind., to take on Butler (3-2) at historic Hinkle Fieldhouse on Wednesday, Nov. 30 at 5:30 p.m., CT. That game will air locally on KHMY, My93.1fm in Hutchinson.