Pittman knows Bearcats
CHARLESTON -- Some introductions won't be necessary Saturday when Marshall University plays the University of Cincinnati.
Thundering Herd forward Elijah Pittman is already acquainted with some of the Bearcats.
Pittman is from Covington, Ky., across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, and played on an AAU basketball team, Kentucky Players, with Cincinnati guard Ge'Lawn Guyn. Pittman is a transfer from Lamar State College in Port Arthur, Texas, where he played last season in junior college Region XIV against Titus Rubles of the Bearcats, who was at Blinn College.
Also, Cincinnati was one of the schools recruiting Pittman before he went to junior college.
"It's a pretty big game for me," Pittman said. "I am familiar with their players. I am familiar with their coach. I know their players from on my AAU team and from playing in my league.
"I know their games. It helps because I know what they do."
Marshall (6-4) and 11th-ranked Cincinnati (9-0) lock up at 2 p.m., Saturday, in the Charleston Civic Center. The game is televised on the CBS Sports Network (Ch. 174 on Huntington cable).
Last season Marshall defeated the Bearcats from the Big East Conference at Fifth Third Arena in Cincinnati, 73-69 in overtime. Marshall head coach Tom Herrion said it was one of the season's best non-conference road wins in the nation.
On his Thursday night radio show Herrion said he wanted the rematch in Huntington, but the Bearcats wouldn't come.
"Deal or no deal," Herrion said. "(It was) not an option."
ESPN Bracketology expert Joe Lunardi's early NCAA tournament projection has Cincinnati as a No. 3 seed.
Pittman, a 6-foot-9 junior, averages 14.2 points and 4.8 rebounds. He's shooting 54.4 percent from the field with at least one 3-point basket in every game, and making 75.5 percent of his foul shots.
Another Marshall connection to Cincinnati is through Guyn. The 6-2 sophomore guard was a senior at Scott County High School Georgetown, Ky., when Herd freshman Tamron Manning was in 10th grade.
Marshall junior guard D.D. Scarver was the juco Region XIV most valuable player last season at Trinity Valley Community College in Texas and played against both Pittman and Rubles, a 6-7 forward.
Cincinnati has risen to the cusp of the Top 10 with victories over Iowa State, Oregon and Alabama.
"They're a ranked team, but anybody can beat anybody," Pittman said.
The Bearcats are putting up 84.2 points per game, led by its guard trio of 6-4 junior Sean Kilpatrick (20.0), 6-foot senior Cashmere Wright (15.0) and 6-3 senior JaQuon Parker (11.0). Defensively, they are allowing an average of 59.2 points. Six-foot-eight junior Justin Jackson (6.2), Kilpatrick (6.1) and 6-10 Cheikh Mbodj (4.9) do most of the rebounding.
UC also has 7-1 David Nyarsuk coming off the bench. He is a transfer from Mountain State University in Beckley.
Herrion said defense creates offense for the Bearcats, so the Herd has to protect the basketball.
Marshall point guard Dre Kane has been outstanding handling and distributing the ball this season, but isn't available Saturday and will be sidelined for an indefinite period because of a hand injury.
Kane, a junior, has a 2.7 assist/turnover ratio, one of the best in Conference USA, with 85 assists and 32 turnovers.
Ball handling duty goes to sophomore Chris Martin and Manning in Kane's absence.
"It's a big challenge for us without one of our key players, but I have confidence in everybody in this room," Pittman said.
Kane also averages 15.0 points and is second in the nation with 8.5 assists a game. Marshall's 75.4 scoring average also includes Scarver (14.8), Pittman and 6-8 senior forward Dennis Tinnon (11.4).
Tinnon and 6-10 senior Nigel Spikes are getting 9.7 and 9.2 rebounds a game respectively.
The contest shapes up as a major battle for rebounds with Marshall ranked 48th nationally at plus-6.5 per game and Cincinnati listed seventh at plus-11.8.
"It's going to be a tough, tough game on the boards," Pittman said.