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Wildcats stop Herd

MU hoops
Dec. 23, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Marshall's Thundering Herd was pretty good on defense Saturday against the Kentucky Wildcats, although the score didn't reflect it.

Yes, the University of Kentucky's defending NCAA champions rolled to victory, 82-54, on their Rupp Arena court before an announced turnout of 24,271 spectators, the largest crowd ever for a Marshall game.

The Marshall defensive performance was responsible for keeping the Herd in it until the Wildcats distanced themselves with a big burst early in the second half.

But, as Marshall head coach Tom Herrion said afterward, nobody can expect its defense to make every stop.

The offense has to chip in, and Marshall (7-6) isn't generating much offensively right now.

"Our offensive efficiency right now is killing us," Herrion said. "It puts so much pressure on our defense."

Part of Marshall's problem on offense is connected to Dre Kane's absence because of a hand injury that has the junior sidelined indefinitely. Kane, who has missed the last three games, averages team highs of 15.0 points and 8.5 rebounds.

Marshall is hoping to have its All-Conference USA player back soon, but until his return someone has to make things happen.

The Herd missed shots from every angle and distance Saturday in a woeful 29.5 performance on field goals, 26.7 percent accuracy on 3-point attempts (4-for-15) and a 53.8 percent mark on free throws (14-for-26).

"We're missing Kane a bunch," said Herd forward Elijah Pittman. "He's a special player. He's a big part of this team."

In the absence of Kane, the Herd played freshman Tamron Manning, sophomore Chris Martin and freshman newcomer Kelvin Amayo at the point guard position. Combined, they had two points, six turnovers and one assist.

Amayo played for the final three minutes in his first appearance since becoming academically eligible Thursday.

All told, Marshall's 17 turnovers resulted in Kentucky (8-3) scoring 26 of its points.

"Our offensive efficiency is absolutely destroying us," Herrion said. "And, it wasn't against pressure today. We turned it over every way imaginable."

Pittman led the Herd with 20 points, including a jump shot to open the second half. Forward Dennis Tinnon, who netted 14 points, followed with one of his two 3-point field goals and Pittman scored on a dunk that quickly reduced a nine-point halftime deficit to 33-31 with 19:01 still left to play.

From that point on, it was all Kentucky.

Herrion said the Herd defense was really good for the first 22 or 23 minutes.

The Wildcats took off on a 29-6 spurt in a period of 10:35 on the game clock that left them with a 62-37 lead with 8:35 to go. They stretched the gap to 31 points inside the final two minutes.

"It's a game of runs, and it's also a game of 40 minutes," Pittman said. "We've got to play for 40 minutes, not 20 and not 19. You give them 40 minutes."

Kentucky shooters connected on just 42.0 percent from the field. The 'Cats won the rebounding contest, 48-43, and turned their 17 offensive rebounds into 26 second-chance points.

Ryan Harrow, a sophomore guard, tossed in 23 points to lead Kentucky in its fourth consecutive victory after being bounced from The Associated Press Top 25 with losses at Notre Dame and against Baylor at home.

Freshman point guard Archie Goodwin scored 18 while freshman forward Nerlens Noel had 11 points and 10 rebounds. Alex Poythress, also a freshman forward, added nine points and had nine rebounds.

UK coach John Calipari said his team got better by playing a Marshall team that challenged the Wildcats with its intensity and size.

"The thing I liked about Marshall is they're very physical," Calipari said. "They're a bump-and-grind team, and we outrebounded them.

"Marshall's going to do fine. Their guard being hurt hurts, but they're going to be fine in Conference USA. They're going to be one of the teams playing for an NCAA bid."

By holding Marshall to 54 points, the Wildcats improved to 27-0 under Calipari when limiting the opponent to 55 or less.

The Wildcats are 12-0 in the all-time series with Marshall, and 8-0 on their home court.

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