The Marshall Thundering Heard come to Rupp Arena today, and unlike Kentucky's last several games, this one is not against a cupcake. However, neither is it against a team that a fully-focused Wildcats team should have too much difficulty defeating. It is the kind of game that we could have wished for more of in this non-conference season, in a way -- a team that offers a significant challenge without being too likely to pull an upset in Rupp Arena.
Here is an overview of the two teams and their performance so far:
|Rank and Records||MARSH||UK|
|Strength of Schedule||#251||#65|
|RPI Top 50||0-1||0-1|
- This will be the 12th meeting between the Thundering Herd and the Wildcats.
- Kentucky is currently 11-0 against Marshall
- The last meeting was in 2003 in Cincinnati. The then #10 Wildcats prevailed 89-76
- Marshall and Kentucky first met in 1914
The front court for Marshall is a big one, compared to many of the teams Kentucky has been playing lately. Senior Nigel Spikes (6'10"/230#) is not as massive as the center Kentucky faced against Lipscomb, but he is plenty big enough. Spikes leads the team in offensive rebounding, blocked shots, and gets to the line a lot -- 5th in all of Division I, in fact. Unfortunately, Spikes is a lousy free throw shooter, averaging under 50% from the line.
Forwards Elijah Pittman (6'9"/219# junior) and Dennis Tinnon (6'8"/230# senior) are Spikes' front-court mates. Small forward Pittman is the team's third-leading scorer at 14.3 ppg and 4.8 rpg. He also shoots a very high percentage from the floor at 54%. He is the team's most efficient offensive player with an offensive rating of 122, and a lethal 3-point shooter at 40%.
Tinnon is the power forward, and a banger. He rarely shoots from the perimeter, but is a good rebounder and a very durable player, leading the Herd in minutes%.
Tinnon and Pittman will be major challenges for Kyle Wiltjer and Alex Poythress. Pittman is too quick for Wiltjer and too tall for Poythress, and Tinnon is more of a banger than either one of them. We'll see if Camp Cal has enabled them to deal with challenges like this defensively.
In the back court, the leading scorer and best player for Marshall, junior point guard DeAndre Kane, suffered a hand injury two games ago and is out for an indefinite period of time. Replacing him is 6'4"/200# freshman Tamron Manning. Manning is a typical Division I freshman, having little impact on the team statistics. At this point, he is little more than a body to replace Kane.
The shooting guard for the Thundering Herd is D.D. Scarver (6'4"/202# junior), the leading scorer on the team. Scarver is a lethal perimeter scorer, averaging 43% from the arc, and accounting for over 30% of Marshall's total shots.
Archie Goodwin and Ryan Harrow absolutely must stay at home on Scarver, because he is a major scoring threat outside. Goodwin must force Scarver to put the ball on the floor and drive, becuase he can't give him open shots. Harrow has to watch Manning, too, because he is bigger and stronger, although less experienced.
The major reserves for Marshall are sophomore guard Chris Martin (6'0"/185#), and senior forward Robert Goff (6'9"/240#). Martin is a below-average 3-point shooter at 30%, although he is an excellent defender and leads the team in steals. Goff is mainly a banger who clogs the middle, rebounds well at 3.4 per game, but adds little scoring at 3.6 ppg. Goff also turns the ball over a lot.
Kentucky is a better shooting team than Marshall, but not by a tremendous amount. Unfortunately, the Thundering Herd are a better offensive rebounding team and get to the line somewhat more frequently. The good news on that score is that Marshall's free-thow shooting is so poor that it negates this statistic completely.
There is a danger for Kentucky there, though, because the Marshall big guys draw a lot of fouls, which means that Nerlens Noel could get into foul trouble.
Marshall is a big team and is an excellent challenge for Kentucky due to their combination of interior size and excellent perimeter shooting. Their best win to date has been against Nevada, but they gave the Cincinnati Bearcats a good game for a half, and threatened West Virginina for most of the game, finally bowing out in the final minutes.
Marshall is mostly a man-to-man defensive team, which gives Kentucky a big advantage due to their superior athleticism. The Thundering Herd are also a loathsome free-throw shooting team, averaging only 58% from the stripe. Additionally, the Herd turn the ball over too much at 21.4% of possessions.
With all that said, Kentucky must be concerned about Marshall because of the Wildcats' weakness on the glass and the dangerous 3-point shooting ability of the Herd. Marshall will test Kentucky early, and if the Wildcats are lethargic and don't pounce on Marshall, they are going to be in for a long, tough slog today.