- Mike DiRocco, ESPN Staff Writer
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Here are five things to watch for in tonight's Florida-Marquette matchup in the Sweet 16 (10:17 p.m. ET on TBS) in Phoenix, Ariz.
Who wins the 3-point line? Florida was terrible from long range in its victory over Virginia (4-for-23) but rebounded with a 10-f0r-28 performance against Norfolk State. The Gators, who average a nation-leading 10 3-pointers per game, have been streaky from long range all season. Marquette's 3-point defense in the NCAA tournament has been pretty good. BYU and Murray State combined to go just 11-for-40 (27.5 percent) from 3-point range. Teams are shooting just 31.8 percent from 3-point range against the Golden Eagles this season.
Stopping Crowder: Marquette forward Jae Crowder was the Big East Player of the Year, and the 6-foot-6 senior has been nearly unstoppable in his last 10 games. Crowder is averaging 21.4 points and 10.7 rebounds and has posted seven double-doubles in that span. He also is averaging 3.1 steals and 2.5 assists and is shooting 51.7 percent from the field in those 10 games. This is a game where not having 6-7 forward Will Yeguete will hurt the Gators, but 6-6 sophomore Casey Prather did a good job against Virginia's Mike Scott. He'll be called upon again to help stop Crowder.
A small advantage: Florida doesn't have a size advantage over many teams, but the Gators are a bit bigger than the Golden Eagles in the frontcourt. Center Patric Young (6-9) and forward Erik Murphy (6-10) have a 2-4 inch height advantage over Crowder and 6-7 forward Jamil Wilson. Will that make a difference, though? Marquette is a solid rebounding team, but the difference could be Bradley Beal. The 6-3 freshman guard is UF's leading rebounder (6.7 per game) and is averaging 8.4 rebounds per game in March.
Getting a handle on things: Marquette is 12th nationally in steals per game (8.7) and the Golden Eagles are very active with their hands defensively, deflecting a lot of balls and putting pressure on the opposing ball-handlers to be smart and careful with the basketball. UF point guard Erving Walker led the Southeastern Conference with a 2.3 assist-to-turnover ratio and has 13 assists and six turnovers in four post-season games (including SEC tournament). Beal has also protected the basketball (14 assists and seven turnovers), while Kenny Boynton has 12 assists and seven turnovers.
Know your role: Florida has had a pair of role players provide an offensive spark in its two NCAA tournament games. Prather scored a career-high 14 points against Virginia. Two nights later Mike Rosario scored 12 against Norfolk State, the most he's had in a game since he had 12 against Jacksonville University on Nov. 25, 2011. Getting that kind of offensive production again out of either of them might be asking too much, but the Gators could use some quality minutes from their bench.