Marshall is 2-2 in its last four, pairing losses to West Virginia and No. 11 Cincinnati, both in Charleston, with grind-it-out wins over Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference opponents Coppin State and Savannah State.
"I think we need to amp it up some more," sophomore guard Chris Martin said. "This is a dream come true. You get a chance to play against a team you watched as a kid. We're going there to win. We're not going there for the experience, so we definitely have to turn it up."
The Herd won't be surprised if the Wildcats employ a pressure, trapping defense that has worked well for Marshall's opponents this month. Marshall is averaging 17 turnovers in its last four games. After committing 20 against the Bearcats, it had 19 against Savannah State, 15 of them Tigers steals.
Marshall will still be without junior DeAndre Kane, whose 8.5 assists per game before he broke his right hand remains the second-best average in Division I. The point guard duties will fall to freshman Tamron Manning, who made his inaugural start Wednesday and played 16 minutes against the Tigers, and Martin, who played 25 minutes Wednesday.
"They're going to be in us," Martin said of Kentucky. "Can't get a cut. They're going to be pressuring to make sure we fumble that ball. We have to stay focused to make sure we hold onto the ball and make the easy passes and limit the turnovers. That's a game-killer."
The Herd is no stranger to high-profile environments. The team played at then-No. 3 Syracuse in the Carrier Dome last season and at Freedom Hall versus Louisville in 2010. Marshall Coach Tom Herrion called Rupp Arena one of the most historic buildings in college basketball, but said his team won't shy away from the challenge.
"Let's go get 'em," Herrion said. "Let's go. We know it's been on our schedule and we have great respect for the defending national champions in their house on national TV. We've got to play well. We've got to play strong. When you play on the road, you've got to do everything better."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.r...@dailymail.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.