The clock is up at LSU and Kansas State is the Cayman Islands Classic champion.
Keyontae Johnson put the Wildcats 4.7 seconds ahead with a turnaround jumper, and after a video review, the potential tie-basket was waved off by LSU guard Trae Hannibal, giving K-State a 61-59 championship game win at the John Gray High School in George Town, Grand Cayman.
Hannibal appeared to get his shot off before the buzzer, but apparently the clock hadn’t started when the Tigers brought in the ball.
Markquis Nowell, who led the Wildcats by 18 points, was named the tournament’s most valuable player. Desi Sills and Johnson, limited to 27 minutes due to foul problems, each added 16 points for K-State.
The Wildcats were down by 12 points late in the first half and by 11 points in less than three minutes into the second, but an 11-0 run midway through the third, fueled by Sills and Nowell, put them back in the game. Nowell capped the surge with a 3-pointer to put his team 52-49 by just over seven minutes.
With the win, K-State improved to 6-0. KJ Williams had 17 points and 10 rebounds to lead LSU, which fell to 5-1.
Here are three takeaways from K-State’s inaugural championship under coach Jerome Tang in its freshman year.
Desi Sills to the rescue for wildcats
Markquis Nowell was his usual reliable self on the stretch and Keyontae Johnson hit the winner’s basket, but the forgotten hero for the Wildcats was guard Desi Sills.
With top scorer Johnson on the bench in nasty trouble – earning his third midway through the first half and his fourth with 13:31 in the second – Sills picked up the gap from the bench, hitting 6 of 9 shots and dishing out five helps.
Sills also saved Johnson the ball for the game winner.
K-State had the ball with 32.6 seconds remaining and the game was tied at 59. Johnson missed a shot from the right and Sills chased the loose ball down near the left touchline and got it to Johnson, who turned to the basket and knocked it down.
Lockdown Defense brings Wildcats back into play
Kansas State, which has been a strong first-half team all season so far, couldn’t stop early against LSU, who held a 38-26 lead with less than two minutes before the break. At the break, the Tigers led 41:33.
But K-State picked up on the defensive intensity, and suddenly LSU started turning the ball over. The Tigers, who had just three first-half errors, coughed 14 times and shot 36.8% in the second half.
The Wildcats also limited LSU to two offensive rebounds in the second half after the Tigers had seven at the break. Guard Cam Carter led K-State in the rebound with seven.
Revenue woes continue for Wildcats
As good as K-State was on offense in the first five games, turnovers were a problem, and against LSU they were boosted.
The Wildcats turned the ball over 11 times in the first half to just three for LSU, resulting in 11 Tiger points. Those numbers improved in the second period, but the Tigers still finished with a 16-13 revenue advantage.
Arne Green lives in Salina and covers Kansas State University esports for the Gannett network. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @arnegreen.