The Penn State Nittany Lions have advanced to the NIT Quarterfinals after wins over Temple and Notre Dame in the first two rounds. They will face the Marquette Golden Eagles on Tuesday and they will need to bring the best defense they have because this Golden Eagle team can shoot the basketball. They average 81.4 points per game which is fourth in the Big East and they shoot the three ball at over 41 percent, first in the Big East. Also, they are fantastic from the free throw line at 80.4 percent.
They also boost two top five scorers in the Big East with Markus Howard and Andrew Rowsey who average 20.4 and 20.2 points per game, respectively. If these two guys are hitting shots and moving the ball around to each other, this Golden Eagle team becomes very hard to stop.
As well and impressive as Marquette scores, they let other teams score just as much. They are last in the Big East in scoring defense at 78.3 points per game and they let their opponents shoot the ball at 47.6 percent a game, which is also last in the Big East.
With Penn State being a good defensive team and showing the ability to stop even some of the best offensive teams out there, this is an obvious match up of offense vs. defense. Can Penn State stop this Marquette offense enough to move on?
With that being said, the match up to watch in this one is Markus Howard and Josh Reaves. Reaves will be tasked with stopping the hot shooting Howard and there is no one better to do it. Reaves is one of the best perimeter and on ball defenders in the country and he leads the Big Ten in steals with 2.3 a game.
If Reaves can stop Howard and force the ball out of his hands, it will put more pressure on Rowsey to score the ball. Marquette is not a deep team and only have three guys who average double figures (Howard, Rowsey and Sam Hauser) and if they can lock up one of them, it gives the Nittany Lions a great chance to come out on top.
However, if Reaves struggles and lets Howard getting going early, he will become extremely difficult to stop and open up the lane for Rowsey and Hauser to have big games as well. Howard is the best offensive player for the Golden Eagles and his performance is key to their success, similar to Tony Carr for Penn State.
Lamar Stevens will also give Reaves some help and try to take some of the pressure of him but for the most part, it will be Reaves. Tony Carr will presumably have the duty of guarding Andrew Rowsey.
This will be a fun game of back and forth basketball and it will be interesting to see how the Nittany Lions go about stopping this explosive Golden Eagle offense.