March 19, 2023
Greensboro, North Carolina, USA
Kansas State Wildcats
Kansas State 75, Kentucky 69
JEROME TANG: First and foremost, I would just like to thank the good Lord for this opportunity and the blessings that he has given us. I want to thank my wife. She just puts up with so much, and these young men across here, we've asked a lot of them, and every time they've delivered.
I'm so proud of them. So proud to represent Kansas State. I'm so proud to be a part of the community of Manhattan. I'm just blessed, man. I'm so blessed.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Jerome, when you took over and you had two guys on your roster, did you think this was possible?
JEROME TANG: I thought that we could be an NCAA Tournament team. That was my goal. Quis and I went to lunch one day, and I said, Quis, I'm going to do everything in my power to put a team together to get to the NCAA Tournament. He said, Coach, I don't care if we have five dudes. We're going to the tournament because Kemba Walker won a national championship with I think three freshmen and two sophomores. Whatever it was. But he knew, right?
I was like, man, with that kind of confidence, it just inspired me to work harder and our staff to work harder. He always believed it, and he helped me believe.
Q. Markquis, you're going home, man. How does this feel?
MARKQUIS NOWELL: It still feels surreal, but I've got to give all the honor and the glory to God Himself, man. Man, I mean, I couldn't have done it without my teammates and my coaching staff. They put together a good game plan, and we believed in it, and I'm just happy we got the victory today.
Q. I feel like you haven't had a big shot like that since the game against Baylor, but to be able to step up in that moment at that time and knock one down at that moment, can you just take me through the emotions of that play?
ISMAEL MASSOUD: The whole game I was just trying to do my part. Today I felt like it was a threat in the post and match the physicality of obviously Oscar and stuff like that, but I knew there would come a time, especially when we weren't shooting the ball that well -- I knew there would be a time when I would get an opportunity to make a shot, and I just had to make sure I was ready. And Quis found me, and I just let it go with no hesitation.
I didn't really think much of it until after I hit it, but just grateful Quis had trust in me to pass that ball.
Q. With a guy like Oscar Tshiebwe dominant with the rebounds, they're getting so many second-chance opportunities in a close game, how important is a number of just having eight turnovers in the game. You're still undefeated when it comes to turnovers 11 or less.
JEROME TANG: They've heard it from me enough. We've sorted through it. To start the half we had three quick turnovers, right? I don't think we turned it over again the rest of the way. So it was huge.
If we get shots up, we're hard to beat. As long as we don't give the other team the ball. We defended today, right? We knew that Oscar was going to get his, but we had to control everybody else. Cason Wallace had an unbelievable game, did a great job, but we felt we did a good job on the three-point shooters, and I think that was the difference in the game.
Q. Coach Tang, you always talk about big-time players making big-time plays in big-time moments.
Keyontae was able to hit that three-pointer at the end there. I'm curious if you could comment on that and also on Markquis just kind of going off tonight.
JEROME TANG: Dudes. We got dudes. That's what it takes. I mean, people get all caught up in the coaching and all of that stuff. It's dudes. You got to have players, and these dudes, they work. They've put in the time.
We talked about it before this game. We're going to trust our work, and we've won really good games against really good teams in really tough environments before, so we were prepared for this.
I expected them to play great, and every time they shot it I thought it was going in, and so it's just -- they believe in themselves, but they don't just do it -- it's not fake confidence, right? It's the work that they put in, the hours they spend in the gym. All of them. I knew Ish was going to make that shot because he wants to go to New York.
Q. So Markquis, Coach mentioned Kemba. I know you talked about him. He has been someone who you have looked up to for a really long time. In this second half -- and you are really taking over the game and scoring a lot -- what does that feel like to be in a Kemba Walker-esque moment?
MARKQUIS NOWELL: I was just in attack mode the second half because I seen how they were playing me. They were playing me for the pass because I dropped a lot of dimes in the first half. I tried to look for my own shot a little bit more and be more aggressive, and I wanted to go to New York.
Q. This is for any of the players, but especially you. You guys were 0 for 12 from three-point range in the first half and 5 for 9 in the second half. Other than going back to the locker room and resetting, was there anything that you guys did differently to bring about the change of accuracy there?
MARKQUIS NOWELL: We just told each other -- we stayed positive in the locker room when things weren't falling. We just said that second half we were going to start hitting some shots, and we did. But it was just nothing but positive vibes going into the locker room.
KEYONTAE JOHNSON: Piggyback on what Quis said. We just went in the locker room just keeping the confidence. We knew shots was going to fall eventually. Coach Reem told me to keep shooting. I haven't even got started yet, so Quis challenged me during the game. He got on me and wanted me to shoot, and I kept driving it in. The last shot, I shot it confident. That was it.
ISMAEL MASSOUD: To add to what they said, even though the shots weren't falling in the first half, our defense was where it needed to be. We knew if we kept defending like we were, the shots were going to fall because in the first half we got a lot of really good looks that we were all happy with, and we all have belief in each other, so we knew it was going to fall.
Q. Coach, after the game you and Gene Taylor embraced in a pretty large hug. To be able to do this in your first year, go to the Sweet 16 in your first year as a head coach, emotionally what's it like to share it with someone who brought you here and took a chance on you after so many years of trying to become a head coach?
JEROME TANG: That was really cool. Actually, I watched Gene and Coach Klieman hug after a win. I was watching on TV, and they had, like, this hug. You could tell, like, there was this love and appreciation for each other with the hug. I was, like, man, I'm going to get a hug like that. I'm going to get a hug like that because I absolutely love him.
I can't tell you how much I appreciate him taking the chance on me. Yeah, words can't press it, but I wanted one of those hugs, and I'm thankful that I get to live life with this man.
Q. Ish, if memory serves, the last time -- your last game at Wake in this building you were beaten at the buzzer. At the end you were kind of standing at mid-court a bit emotional. I saw you hug Randolph Childress as well. What were you feeling as you were going through that line of fans and that ended with Coach Chil there?
ISMAEL MASSOUD: A lot of happiness and emotion because it took a lot for all of us to get here. From being picked last to all the workouts in the summer and for me to have that moment, it meant a lot because, you know, you never know when you have another opportunity like this.
For me to be able to play my role for this team and help this team and help us accomplish our goals, it just was so much emotion that I just couldn't contain other than crying.
Q. Jerome, on that inbounds play in the final minute when a bunch of guys were on the line, can you walk us through that?
JEROME TANG: No, because then the other team will know next time we have to use it.
Q. But actually, it came from Baylor, right?
JEROME TANG: Yeah, but we stole it from somebody else, but, yeah. We actually call it Mahomes, for Patrick Mahomes, the quarterback for the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.
Q. This is for Markquis. I wanted to ask you when you were hustling around last summer trying to -- or last spring, I guess, trying to keep the team together, trying to be an agent for -- that may be the wrong word -- a facilitator for your new coach, I wanted to ask you whether you thought this was possible, just a good season? Did you have bigger dreams than this even?
MARKQUIS NOWELL: I mean, I did have faith in that this team would be able to go to March Madness and do some special things, but I've got to give a lot of credit to our athletic director, Gene Taylor, for trusting in Coach Tang, trusting in the text messages I sent to him, and I got to give a lot of credit to Coach Tang for establishing this coaching staff that we have now.
Everybody, you know, plays a tremendous role in the locker room, and the reason -- and that's the reason why we're winning.
So, I mean, I have faith that if I get at least five players, I don't care who it is, that, you know, we was going to make it to March, and we'll do something special.
Q. Markquis, you mentioned Kemba, and there's so many great stories of March Madness where guys who were very good become legendary. Has it dawned on you that you are the 5'8" guy who just knocked off Kentucky and is going home to Madison Square Garden in New York and what that story means on the bigger stage of things?
MARKQUIS NOWELL: It hasn't hit me just yet, and I kind of don't want it to because I don't want to lose that hunger that I play with and that passion I play with, but, you know, this is about my team. I mean, we accomplished this. I didn't accomplish this by myself. Everybody, you know, played huge for us. The coaching staff did great. You know, I'm just proud of everybody in the locker room and behind the scenes.
Q. For Markquis Nowell, there was twice -- there was one time you shot over Tshiebwe. There was another time you kind of scored through him going to the glass. Can you take me through those couple of plays because from my vantage point it was pretty nuts to see those plays.
MARKQUIS NOWELL: Like I said, I felt like I could get downhill versus them because of the way Tshiebwe plays pick and roll defense, but I don't think we mentioned how good Kentucky really was today. You know, just offensive rebounding, getting second-chance points.
Tshiebwe had a double-double. Cason played good. They put up a fight, and it was a 40-minute battle. But we just ran to the fight. You know, we were the most toughest team out there.
Q. You had talked yesterday about goals with this team, Keyontae. I'm just curious how it feels to be one step closer.
KEYONTAE JOHNSON: I mean, it's really a blessing just being out here. I got emotional with my dad, everything that I've been through. I finally just got past that and made it to the Sweet 16.
Just grateful for having the right guys around me. Quis challenged me during the game, and it was just -- Ish knocking down a big three. Just shows how much we love each other and just how much freedom we have and how much we have each other.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, guys.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports