Short-handed Herd welcomes No. 11 Cincinnati to Civic Center
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Marshall players know they cannot sneak up on Cincinnati today at the Civic Center. Not after the Thundering Herd humbled the Bearcats on their home court a year ago.
"They're going to be really fired up. They're going to be really upset because we beat them," said MU forward Dennis Tinnon. "Every team wants their revenge if you get the second chance, after you lost to those guys. We know that they're going to come in with lots of energy from the jump, and they're going to want to beat us really bad."
Or maybe Cincinnati, 9-0 and ranked 11th in the land, is simply coming to town to take care of business. Maybe the Herd's 73-69 overtime win in late November 2011 is nothing but a line in the Bearcats' media guide.
"It's hard to even think back that long ago," UC coach Mick Cronin said Friday, before his team traveled to Charleston.
Indeed, it's easier to think ahead to today's 2 p.m. tip of a game airing on CBS Sports Network. On paper, it's a mismatch between a Marshall team struggling to score from distances near and far, and a Cincinnati team that was one of 13 undefeated teams in Division I entering Friday's play.
Add to that the Herd (6-4) missing leading scorer and assist man DeAndre Kane (injured hand), and the odds keep getting longer for the semi-home team.
That will mean more minutes for Chris Martin, who has been a bit disappointing off the bench so far, and for freshman Tamron Manning. It will mean junior-college transfers Elijah Pittman and D.D. Scarver, averaging a combined 29 points a game, will have to do more.
"Everybody's got to do more," said Herd coach Tom Herrion. "When you take an important player off any team, as you are with DeAndre not being able to play, it's not one guy, it's everybody being able to collectively step up.
"We don't ask guys to play outside their abilities, but I want everybody to collectively do more. We've got to tweak things as a [coaching] staff, make sure we're doing things a little differently, where we're going with the ball, who's getting shots."
It will mean Robert Goff and Nigel Spikes will have to stand tall against a deep Cincinnati frontcourt rotation, and stay out of foul trouble. That is a difference from last season's Bearcats, where Yancey Gates was the face of the inside game.
"I think they've got a little more depth than they had last year," Tinnon said. "We watch film and see they've got some pretty good guys that came in this year. The ones that were there last year are playing better than ever."
So far, the Bearcats have nobody playing more than 30 minutes per game, with All-American candidate Sean Kilpatrick logging 29.7. By comparison, Pittman and Tinnon are averaging more than 31 minutes, with the now-sidelined Kane logging 38.2 per game.
Considerable advantage, Bearcats.
"We've got a completely different team this year, and we've been fortunate enough to stay somewhat healthy, and we've got some depth to our roster," Cronin said. "Playing hard is a lot easier when you have somebody who can check in for you when you don't play hard, so you're motivated. Also, you're rested because you don't have to play too many minutes.
"One thing about our team this year is we've been able to confidently play 10 guys, and that enables us to keep our intensity level up."
Kilpatrick, averaging an even 20 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, may illustrate how much the Herd will miss Kane on defense. Kilpatrick and backcourt mates Cashmere Wright and JaQuon Parker have combined for 60 3-point goals and shoot 43.2 percent from long range.
And that will pressure the Herd's perimeter defense, which is allowing foes to shoot 35.1 percent. Herrion wants that figure, ninth in Conference USA, a little lower.
Marshall's recent bugaboo is simply shooting. In its last four games, it has been outshot from the floor and has recorded its four worst field-goal percentages - 33.3, 36.4, 36.5 and 41.9. Three-point shooting hasn't been great (32.5 percent for season), but the Herd is shooting just 41.3 percent on 2-point shots in the last four games.
Scarver and Pittman have bolstered those numbers. For instance, they combined to shoot 8 of 15 from 3-point range against West Virginia 10 days ago at the Civic Center.
Perhaps they didn't know it's a building where 3-pointers usually go to die. "It really doesn't matter. I just focus on the rim and follow through on my shot," Scarver said.
Herrion knows he'll need all the buckets Scarver can sink. Ditto for Pittman, Tinnon and anybody else who can step up for the Herd today.
During his stint as a Pittsburgh assistant, and now as the Herd's head coach, Herrion has seen Cronin bring the Bearcats back from the dregs of the Big East over the last seven seasons, and knows the Herd may have its toughest game of the season.
"When you're top-10 in the country, you don't have a lot of holes or weaknesses," Herrion said. "Not a lot of them have been revealed yet, that I can see on tape.
"We recognize how good they are, but yet we know it's a great opportunity and a terrific challenge. Our kids are excited about the opportunity."
BRIEFLY This is the first time Marshall has played somebody other than West Virginia at the Civic Center since Nov. 28, 2009, a 60-53 win over Ohio. ... Cincinnati leads the series 19-12, though Marshall leads 9-4 in Huntington. ... Marshall is 8-51 against teams ranked in the Associated Press poll, with the last such game Dec. 6, 2011 against No. 3 Syracuse. The Herd's last win over a ranked team came Jan. 19, 2011, a 75-71 win over No. 21 WVU.