Marshall (7-5) at Kentucky (7-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 22, 4 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Rupp Arena (23,000) -- Lexington, Kentucky. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: Marshall 6-1, UK 6-1. Away Record: Marshall 0-2, UK 0-1. Neutral Record: Marshall 1-2, UK 1-1. Conference Record: Marshall 0-0, UK 0-0. Series Record: UK leads, 11-0.
GAME NOTES: The Kentucky Wildcats will try to continue their climb back onto the national radar this afternoon, as they welcome the Marshall Thundering Herd to Rupp Arena for a non-conference clash.
The reigning national champion Wildcats dropped out of the AP Top-25 following back-to-back losses three weekends ago. However, they have since responded with three straight blowout victories, including an 88-50 thrashing of Lipscomb last Saturday. Kentucky will wrap up its season-long, five-game homestand and look to improve to 7-1 at Rupp Arena on the season.
Meanwhile, Marshall has notched only one victory in five tries outside of Huntington so far this season. The Thundering Herd have split their last four outings and are coming off a 64-48 triumph over Savannah State on Wednesday night. This will be their final game action until Jan. 2 when Delaware State comes to town.
UK has won all 11 prior meetings in the series with Marshall, although this is the first time the teams are facing each other since the 2003-04 season.
Marshall junior guard D.D. Scarver led the team in scoring for the fourth straight game, finishing with 18 points on 5-of-11 shooting against Savannah State, including a 3-of-6 effort from beyond the arc. Senior Dennis Tinnon knocked down 6-of-7 field goals en route to 14 points, while junior forward Elijah Pittman scored all of his 10 points during a key second-half surge. Leading 43-39 with 8:28 to play in regulation, the Herd went on a 17-5 run to put the game in their back pocket. The perimeter defense played a big role as the Tigers finished the game 0-for-7 from 3-point range, marking the first time the Herd held an opponent without a 3-pointer since 1991. On the season, Scarver paces four players averaging double figures with 15.5 points per game and is shooting at a 43 percent clip from long range. However, second-leading scorer DeAndre Kane (15.0 ppg, 4.8 rpg) has missed the last two games with a broken right hand and remains out indefinitely.
Sometimes, all it takes is a little wake-up call for a team to begin realizing its potential, particularly a young squad. That appears to be the case for the Wildcats, who have won their last three outings by an average margin of 33 points after those back-to-back losses. Sophomore Kyle Wiltjer had a breakout game against Lipscomb, notching his first career double-double with 23 points and 12 rebounds off the bench. Wiltjer was almost automatic from the perimeter, knocking down 7-of-9 threes in a 24-minute shift. It was the first time this season that Wiltjer came off the bench, and given the results, it would be hard to argue against him taking on that role again in this matchup. Coach John Calipari certainly has enough scoring options to mix and match lineup combinations, even with the team's recent tumble out of the national rankings. Freshmen Archie Goodwin (15.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and Alex Poythress (15.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg) pace four players averaging double figures.
Even with a healthy Kane, the Herd would face long odds of pulling off an upset at Rupp Arena. Any questions surrounding the Wildcats earlier this month have largely been answered. Expect UK to win big at home.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Kentucky 81, Marshall 61
12/22 10:40:23 ET