Testing week for Herd
HUNTINGTON -- It's the middle of finals week for Marshall University student-athletes.
It's also preparation time for the Thundering Herd men's basketball team to face its toughest assignment yet on the court.
Marshall (6-4) meets 11th-ranked University of Cincinnati (9-0) at 2 p.m., Saturday in the Charleston Civic Center. The telecast is on the CBS Sports Network (Ch. 174 on Huntington cable).
"We have to manage the week," Marshall head coach Tom Herrion said about players taking finals and getting ready for the Bearcats. "We have academic responsibilities to take care of. Then, we have to get better.
"We're not in panic mode (academically). We just have to tie up loose ends."
Marshall won four of its last five games, including a 69-63 defeat of Coppin State last weekend.
Winning four of the next five poses a real challenge with a lineup of foes that includes Cincinnati, Savannah State, Kentucky, Delaware State and Ohio.
The announcement Monday that junior guard Dre Kane is out for an indefinite period because of a hand injury forces other players to pick up the slack.
Kane, a preseason All-Conference USA selection, leads the team in scoring with a 15.0 average, is ranked second in the nation with 8.5 assists per game and plays for 38.2 minutes a game, which leads the conference.
"We're still trying to figure things out personnel-wise," Herrion said. "We've created more options and more depth. Guys have to take advantage of those opportunities."
Marshall has things to tighten up such as missing too many shots around the basket. Those shots won't come easily against a hard-nosed Cincinnati defense. Free throw shooting still needs work for a team that ranks last in 12-team Conference USA at 59.8 percent. Only UCF is worse at 58.7 percent.
The Herd averages 75.4 points on 43.8 percent shooting and gives up 70.5 points a game on 41.2 percent shooting.
Kane is joined in double-figure scoring by guard D.D. Scarver (14.8), forward Elijah Pittman (14.2) and forward Dennis Tinnon (11.4). The Herd is 48th in the nation for rebound margin at plus-6.5, led by Tinnon (9.7) and center Nigel Spikes (9.2) who are ranked in the national top 50 players.
.Defensively, the Herd added some different wrinkles against Coppin State by using some full-court pressure and playing some zone.
Cincinnati has rolled through its opposition by an average score of 84.2 to 59.2, but had some closer calls against Iowa State (78-70), Oregon (77-66) and Alabama (58-56).
The guard tro of junior Sean Kilpatrick (20.0) and seniors Cashmere Wright (15.0) and JaQuon Parker (11.0) accounts for 54.4 percent of UC's scoring, 83.3 percent of the 3-point field goals, 47.7 percent of the steals and 50.0 percent of the steals.
Six-foot-eight forward Justin Jackson leads in rebounds with 6.2 a game and adds 4.7 points. The 6-4 Kilpatrick averages 6.1 rebounds while 6-10 Cheikh Mbodj averages 5.2 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.7 blocked shots.
The Bearcats have feasted on opponents committing an average of 17.3 turnovers a game.
Cincinnati is ranked second in the nation with 46.8 rebounds per game.
Coach Mick Cronin's club is deep, with 11 players getting more than 10 minutes a game.
Jeremiah Davis III, a 6-3 sophomore from Muncie, Ind., who played for Huntington Prep Academy, comes off the bench for 10.8 minutes and 5.5 points per game.