Guards guide Seton Hall, No. 23 Marquette into Big East semis
A pair of stellar junior guards will be on display Friday in the Big East tournament semifinal between No. 23 Marquette and Seton Hall.
The second-seeded Golden Eagles boast Big East Player of the Year Markus Howard, while the third-seeded Pirates have Myles Powell, whose scoring average of 22.9 points per game ranks second in the league behind only Howard (25.1).
Make no mistake, both teams will be aiming to stop the other side's standout when tipoff arrives at Madison Square Garden in New York.
To be sure, both Howard and Powell are accustomed to it.
"Markus is Big East Player of the Year for a reason, and it's not just because he can score," Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski said. "You're talking about a complete player who every team's game plan is geared to stop him. What he's been able to do this year is fantastic.
"It's hard when you command that much attention from a defense to make a great decision every time, especially when the ball is in your hand a lot, but he's done that more times than not. I mean, the vast majority of the time, or else he wouldn't be Big East Player of the Year."
Powell had the upper hand on Howard by the slimmest of margins Thursday in the teams' quarterfinal games. Erupting for a Big East tournament-record 29 points in the first half, Powell scored 31 points to lift the Pirates (19-12) to a 73-57 victory against Georgetown.
The Golden Eagles (24-8) cruised to an 86-54 win against St. John's behind 30 points from Howard, who overcame persistent defense from the Red Storm by remaining confident in himself and his teammates.
"They definitely used their length and athleticism to their advantage," Howard said of the Red Storm. "They would speed me up a lot, and kind of what was the difference tonight was, given my teammates, they really stepped up big in terms of taking control of the game from the early start. Once they were able to do that, it kind of opened things up for me."
Powell shot 10-for-14 in the first half against Georgetown, including 4-for-7 from 3-point range, and he was 5-for-7 from the free-throw line. He left the game with an apparent ankle injury with 3:31 remaining but was moving under his own power and said he was certain he would play against Marquette.
"I'm going to be back," Powell said. "I'm going to be ready. We got a great Marquette team coming up, and we want to get back to the hotel, ice up and get ready."
The Pirates split the regular season series with the Golden Eagles, taking a four-point road loss on Jan. 12 before stunning Marquette with a 73-64 home victory on March 6. Seton Hall ended the latter game on an 18-0 run.
Powell scored 10 of his game-high 34 points during the final surge, but he stressed that everything will reset when the teams meet again on Friday.
"It's March," Powell said. "Anything can happen. That's this time of year."
--Field Level MediaHome