Montana State guard RaeQuan Battle celebrates after scoring against Kansas State during the first half of a first-round men’s NCAA Tournament game on Friday night in Greensboro, N.C. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Montana State guard RaeQuan Battle celebrates after scoring against Kansas State during the first half of a first-round men’s NCAA Tournament game on Friday night in Greensboro, N.C. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Battle scores 26, Montana State falls to Kansas State

The Marysville Pilchuck alum leads all scorers in the game, but the No. 14 Bobcats lose to the No. 3 Wildcats 77-65.

Associated Press

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Markquis Nowell had 17 points and 14 assists and No. 3 seed Kansas State held off 14th-seeded Montana State 77-65 Friday night for its first NCAA Tournament win since knocking off Kentucky in 2018 to reach the Elite Eight.

Now the two Wildcat programs will meet again in a rematch on Sunday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum. Kentucky, the sixth seed, defeated No. 11 Providence 61-53 in the earlier game.

Marysville Pilchuck alum RaeQuan Battle had 26 points on 9 of 17 shooting for Montana State (25-10), which had its eight-game win steak snapped.

Nowell and fellow third-team Associated Press All-American Keyontae Johnson, who had 18 points and eight rebounds, proved too much for the Bobcats to handle.

Kansas State (24-9) led Montana State 34-28 at the break, and the Wildcats stretched the lead to 13 with 11 minutes remaining when Desi Sills scoring on a layup off an inbounds pass under his own basket after a botched defensive assignment.

Montana State went to a 1-3-1 defense, which disrupted the Wildcats for a short time and helped cut the lead to eight before Nowell buried a deep 3-pointer from the left wing and Nae’Qwan Tomlin scored off a lob to push the lead back to 13.

Montana State wouldn’t quit though, with Darius Brown knocking down a 3 with 2:44 left.

But Tomlin, who finished with 13 points, answered with another dunk off after Nowell threaded the needle with his 14th assist, the most ever by a Kansas State player in an NCAA Tournament game.

David N’Guessan added two two technical foul free throws and then scored on an inside layup. Sills punctuated the win with a breakaway left-handed dunk giving the Wildcats a 16-point lead.

The Bobcats were looking for a better showing after losing by 35 points in the opening round of last year’s tournament to Texas Tech and they got it. The Big Sky champions showed they can compete on the NCAA Tournament stage but in the end didn’t have the size to compete with the Wildcats. Montana State was outscored 48-30 in the paint.

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