Chuck Landon: Pittman and Manning are familiar with Rupp Arena
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- It is just a building, right?
Lots of concrete. Lots of glass. Lots of seats.
But, all in all, other than the rrrrrr's that roll off the tongue like an Irish brogue when pronouncing Rupp Arena, it's just another college basketball gym.
Uh, not exactly.
Just ask Marshall's Tamron Manning and Elijah Pittman.
"Oh, no," said Pittman, a native of Covington, Ky. "There's no place like Rupp. It's special."
Special concrete? Special glass? Special seats.
That's make makes Rupp Arena arguably the greatest college basketball venue in America and, perhaps, the toughest on opponents.
"It makes it tough because of how loud it gets in there," said Manning, who hails from Georgetown, Ky. "When I've normally played there, the fans were for my team mainly. But, now, being the opposition I can see how loud it can get and how people can get caught up in just the atmosphere itself.
"That's why it's so tough."
Manning and Pittman qualify as the de facto Herd experts on Rupp Arena, heading into Marshall's game against Kentucky, ranked No. 23 in the USA Today Coaches Poll, at 4 p.m., Saturday.
That's because collectively the two Kentucky natives have played nearly 30 games in the arena.
Manning, 6-foot-4 true freshman point guard, led nearby Scott County High School to the championship game of Kentucky's famous Sweet 16 state tournament in 2012, scoring 28 points in a losing effort.
"I played there my freshman year and my sophomore year, too," said Manning, who grew up only 12 miles from Rupp Arena. "I've probably played 10 or 11 games there."
As for Pittman, the 6-9 junior forward from Covington, Ky., made three "Sweet 16" appearances for Holmes High School including the 2009 state championship.
"I've probably played in 20-some games there," said Pittman.
So, any secrets they can share? Any tips they can supply to less indoctrinated teammates? Any idiosyncrasies about the court, any ghosts haunting the hardwood, any gremlins lurking around the Rupp rims that uneducated Marshall players should know about?
"Nope," said Manning matter-of-factly. "Everything is the same as in any other big arena. Shooting, lighting ... everything is the same.
"It's just that Rupp will be packed with Kentucky fans. There will be 25,000 or how many ever seats there are. Whatever it seats, that's how many will be there. And it will be all blue in there. So, you have to get used to that."
Well, not all blue.
After all, this is the Yuletide season. So, of course, Rupp Arena will be trimmed with a small amount of greenery.
"Yeah, you'll see a little tiny bit of green," said a grinning Manning, referring to the Marshall fans who did manage to get tickets.
But, otherwise, he's correct. The Big Blue Nation will be in holiday form today. And that can mean only one thing.
"Kentucky fans are a little bit crazier than normal fans," conceded Manning. "It gets really loud, especially when Kentucky starts making runs.
"Marshall fans might not realize how much real tradition Rupp really does have. ... how important Kentucky basketball is."
That means Manning and Pittman should be advised to wear game faces as shields on Saturday. Why? Because the two Kentucky natives will encounter a factor they've never faced in all their games at Rupp.
Today, they are the enemy.
"We might be targets," said a wide-eyed Pittman.
Welcome back to a building named Rupp Arena.
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2827 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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