Florida Atlantic ready for challenge of Kansas State record-setting guard Markquis Nowell

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NEW YORK — Florida Atlantic will look to once again create history when the Owls face the Kansas State Wildcats in the Elite Eight Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.

A spot in the Final Four will be on the line as the Owls look to pull off another upset. The game will be aired on TBS with tip-off at 6:09 p.m.

Owls head coach Dusty May said that the opportunity to face Kansas State is thrilling.

“Well, obviously extremely excited to still be playing and surviving and advancing like much of the year,” FAU coach Dusty May said on Friday. “Last night is a great example of different guys stepping up for our team in a cumulative effort.”

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While the ninth-seeded Owls upset fourth-seeded Tennessee on Thursday night, the Wildcats are coming off an exhilarating game, beating Michigan State in overtime, 98-93.

Markquis Nowell coming off injury in record performance

They were led by senior guard Markquis Nowell, who scored 20 points and recorded 19 assists, the latter breaking the record for the most assists in a national tournament game.

Averaging 17.2 points and 8.1 assists per game, Nowell is dynamic in all aspects and the native New Yorker is looking to put on another show in front of his family and friends.

However, Nowell suffered a leg injury and went down with 15 minutes left in the second half, before coming back and continuing to make stellar plays. Wildcats head coach Jerome Tang said Friday that Nowell suffered a tweaked ankle, but he’s feeling better and is on track to play against FAU.

May said that with a player like Nowell, a team doesn’t shut him down completely. You hope they can at least make him feel uncomfortable on the court.

“You have to pick your poison, decide what you're going to live with and try to make them as inefficient as possible," May said. "Because when you have the range, the mid-range, the floaters to the rim, the passing to the left and right hand, he has no holes in his game and he's going to find a solution to whatever coverage you're in.

“So we'll probably have to switch up some coverages. Hopefully we don't, but players like that typically make you.”

Bryan Greenlee will be one of the many guards trying to defend Nowell. He said keeping him off-balance will be their main goal.

“On-ball pressure is a big key, and also help the side defense and making sure that the rest of the defenders see their man and don't get backdoor cut and different things like that,” Greenlee said. “I believe with our switching defense and how attentive we are to being disciplined, we can do a good job of containing him.”

How FAU basketball will avoid bright lights of Madison Square Garden

Off the court, May and the coaching staff want to instill an accountability mindset with the team that starts with the usage of cell phones. May said that because they knew they would be the favorites against FDU after the win over Memphis, he didn’t want the team feeling too high.

While it’s fine for the student-athletes to enjoy the moment with their family and friends, May requested a deadline to shut off their phones and focus on the Elite Eight.

“We have such great leadership in our locker room. Giancarlo [Rosado] and I, we walked off the bus together and Rosado is one of the best leaders I've been around,” May said. “I said, 'G, let's make sure our phones are off by 2 o'clock' - it was 1 a.m. - 'let's enjoy this next hour. By 2, let's make sure our phones are off and we're getting some rest because tomorrow is a huge day for preparation.' ”

To beat Kansas State, FAU will need its eight- to nine-man rotation to contribute like they’ve been doing all season, one of the keys to their success. A key player in that rotation is senior guard Michael Forrest, who was Dusty May’s first recruit at FAU. He was held scoreless in the first two games of the tourney, but he was significant in the win against Tennessee, scoring eight straight points and sparking a game-changing run in the second half.

May said that he felt Forrest was putting too much pressure on himself, but something clicked Thursday night that got him out of his slump.

Forrest credited his teammates and a trip to a New York staple to help clear his mind.

“I would say the biggest difference is that I was able to just relax because my teammates sensed that energy that I had and they were being positive with me and just trying to keep me upbeat,” Forrest said. “I took a little walk in Central Park and went there and just relaxed. That's really been like the biggest difference, just being able to relax and just release from all the city stuff.”

A spot in the Final Four is on the line as the Owls look to pull off another upset against Kansas State Saturday, March 25 in Madison Square Garden. The game will be aired on TBS starting at 6:09 p.m. (EST).

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: FAU basketball hopes to slow down Markquis Nowell in March Madness