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Marshall excited to play UK

MU hoops
Dec. 21, 2012 @ 12:31 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Post-game chats between reporters and coaches focus on the game just played.

On Wednesday, that was Marshall's 64-48 victory over Savannah State.

Then someone invariably asks about what's up next.

For The Marshall Thundering Herd (7-5) that's a 4 p.m., Saturday, game against the NCAA defending champion Kentucky Wildcats (7-3) in Rupp Arena.

"Let's go get 'em, lets go," Marshall head coach Tom Herrion said.

Kentucky began the season ranked No. 3 in the polls after losing six players to the NBA. The Wildcats dropped out of The Associated Press Top 25 following losses at Notre Dame and to Baylor, but are still No. 22 in the USA TODAY/ESPN Coaches' rankings.

Their history speaks for itself with the all-time NCAA record of 2,097 victories, eight national championships and three runner-up finishes.

Rupp Arena in downtown Lexington, Ky., where Kentucky teams win 88 percent of their games, provides one of the best home-court environments in the nation. Kentucky has led the nation in attendance seven consecutive seasons with averages of about 23,000 per game.

"The defending national champion in their house, on national TV (ESPN2). We'll get ready, prepare, our kids will be excited," Herrion said. "It's a great opportunity. What a great venue, one of the most historical buildings in college basketball history.

"We're excited about the great opportunity and challenge that lies ahead of us."

Kentucky has been idle since Saturday when head coach John Calipari's club won at home against Lipscomb, 88-50.

Three heralded freshmen lead UK's scoring -- 6-4 guard Archie Goodwin (15.8), 6-7 forward Alex Poythress (15.0) and 6-10 Nerlens Noel (10.7) while 6-10 sophomore Kyle Wiltjer (11.7) joins them in double figures. Noel is the leading rebounder (9.0) and shot blocker (3.9).

Marshall played its most consistent two halves of the season against Savannah State (5-7), Herrion said.

Junior guard D.D. Scarver scored 18 and is the Herd leader with a 15.5 average, slightly more than junior guard Dre Kane (15.0) who has missed two games and is sidelined for an indefinite period because of an injury to his right hand.

Scarver gave the offense a boost with a 3-for-5 performance shooting 3-pointers.

Forwards Dennis Tinnon (10.8) and Elijah Pittman (14.3) scored 14 and 10 respectively while both players grabbed six rebounds. Center Nigel Spikes scored seven and also had six rebounds.

Freshman point guard Tamron Manning made his first career start in Kane's spot and played for 16 minutes. Sophomore point guard Chris Martin had eight points and four steals in 25 minutes.

"At times we were really, really good, but too many turnovers," Herrion said. "Nineteen is a bad number."

Herrion said contributions by Martin, Jamir Hanner, Rob Goff and DeVince Boykins from off the bench helped overcome an early deficit.

Marshall shot 41.7 percent from the field while limiting the Tigers to 33.3 percent and no 3-pointers in seven attempts -- the first time a Herd opponent failed to connect on a 3-point shot since Penn State went 0-for-3 on Dec. 29, 1991.

The Herd continued to struggle making free throws at 19-for-31, but sank 13 of its final 15 and 10 straight at the end.

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