Marshall men to face defending champions
HUNTINGTON - As if the Marshall men's basketball team's December wasn't challenging enough, the defending national champions officially have been added to the schedule.
The Thundering Herd will travel to Lexington, Ky. on Dec. 22 for a date with the University of Kentucky at Rupp Arena. UK released its non-conference schedule Tuesday.
"Obviously, the history of that program and it coming off a national championship speaks for itself," Marshall Coach Tom Herrion said. "I have great respect for the longevity of their success, and I know it's a game a lot of people are going to be excited about."
That game will conclude a 17-day span for Marshall that month that includes games versus West Virginia (Dec. 5) and Cincinnati (Dec. 15) at the Charleston Civic Center. WVU lost to Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament's second round last season, while the Bearcats reached the Sweet 16 before losing to Ohio State.
The Herd hasn't shied away from top non-conference competition. MU played North Carolina in 2009, Louisville in 2010 and Syracuse last year.
MU Athletic Director Mike Hamrick said the UK game offers a ton of benefits. It's a short drive for both the team and fans. It should be a prime TV opportunity (the game will be broadcast on one of the family of ESPN networks). And it means big money. Marshall will receive $90,000 to visit UK.
"We want to get this program back to the NCAA Tournament," Hamrick said. "To do that, we have to play good people."
The Herd is coming off a 21-14 season where it reached the Conference USA championship game and made its first NIT appearance since 1988. MU returns three starters from that team. UK lost its top six players, all of whom were taken in the NBA Draft, but boasts the nation's top signing class, including center Nerlens Noel and forward Alex Poythress.
"They're like Noah's Ark. They've got two of everything," Herrion said. "The names may be different, but they're a lot similar to some of the players they've had in past years."
Marshall is 0-11 all-time against the Wildcats. The last time the two teams played, UK beat Marshall 89-76 at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati on Dec. 1, 2003.
Football game time set vs. Memphis: The Herd's home football game against Memphis on Nov. 3 will kick off at 2 p.m.