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Marshall faces Ohio in CIT

MU basketball
Mar. 15, 2011 @ 12:17 AM

HUNTINGTON -- It's all positive in the Marshall University camp.

Marshall (22-11) thought it made a case for getting in either the NCAA men's basketball tournament or the National Invitation Tournament, which is also operated by the NCAA, with its RealTimeRPI index of 54 and Strength of Schedule calculated at No. 72, but it wasn't enough.

So, Marshall returns to the CollegeInsider.com Tournament for the second consecutive season.

"Our season's not over yet," said Marshall senior Tirrell Baines. "It just didn't work out our way. I'm excited there's more basketball to be played.

"A lot of seniors are sitting at home."

Longtime rival Ohio (18-15) made the 80-mile trip for a 7 p.m., Tuesday, meeting in Cam Henderson Center, a rematch of a Dec. 4 game Marshall won, 65-57, in Athens, Ohio.

At about 4:30 p.m., Monday, approximately 3,000 tickets were sold. Tickets are $21, $15 and $13. Marshall student tickets are $5. The ticket office is open from 8:30 a.m., Tuesday, until game time.

Marshall learned its postseason destiny late Sunday.

"We've all made mistakes," Herd head coach Tom Herrion said. "The NCAA made a mistake."

NCAA Division I basketball has 345 teams. The NCAA chose 68, the NIT has 32, the College Basketball Invitational has 16 and the CIT expanded this year to 24 from 16.

That means only 140 are still playing, just four will end the season with a win "and we have that opportunity," Herrion said.

Marshall's appearance in the 2010 CIT ended a 21-year postseason absence. Marshall played two former Southern Conference rivals, defeating Western Carolina and losing to Appalachian State.

This time its opponent is a former Mid-American Conference rival, Ohio. Marshall and Ohio meet for the 97th time with the Bobcats leading the series 50-46.

Ohio is making its third postseason appearance in four seasons. Last season Ohio won the MAC tournament championship and the 14th-seeded Bobcats upset third-seeded Georgetown in the NCAA event.

Marshall players returned to practice Sunday night before they knew what tournament they were in, or who they would play.

Baines said he won't have any problem shaking off a Conference USA tournament quarterfinal loss to UTEP.

"It's a new week," he said.

Marshall had a head start on its Ohio scouting because of the earlier meeting and began fine tuning it Sunday night.

Ohio slipped into the CIT on the heels of an overtime quarterfinal loss to Ball State at the MAC tournament in Cleveland, 76-73. Ohio won only two of its six overtime games.

The Bobcats are led by 5-foot-10 sophomore guard D.J. Cooper, an all-conference and all-district player averaging 16.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 7.5 assists..All-MAC honorable mention player DeVaughn Washington, a 6-8 senior, scores 13 points and gets 5.6 rebounds a game.

Cooper had 22 points, six rebounds and nine assists in the loss to Marshall.

Ivo Baltic, a 6-8 sophomore, and 6-3 freshman Nick Kellogg average 11.6 and 11.4 points respectively. Baltic is the top rebounder at 6.2.

Kellogg is the son of CBS basketball analyst Clark Kellogg.

"It is a team we're familiar with," Herrion said. "They were up and down for a while, but they've strung together a couple wins."

Marshall has undergone some changes since beating Ohio in its seventh game of the season. Junior guard Damier Pitts regained academic eligibility in the 10th game and leads the Herd in scoring (16.1), assists (4.8) and free throw percentage (84.9). Junior forward Johnny Thomas joined the starting lineup at midseason. The 6-6 Thomas averages 9.2 points and 4.6 rebounds.

C-USA Freshman of the Year Dre Kane is a 6-4 guard scoring 15.2 points a game while Baines, a 6-6 forward, is good for averages of 12.6 points and 6.6 rebounds.

Kane scored 18 points in the December win at Ohio. Baines had 12 points and 10 rebounds.

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