Each and every game, CoachCal.com will talk with assistant coach John Robic about Kentucky’s plan of attack. Coach Robic is responsible for scouting the opposition. Without giving away too much of the game plan, Robic will tell us his keys to the game, an X-factor and who Kentucky has to watch for on the opposing team.
Robic: They’re an experienced team in the fact they have a couple of seniors that start. They have a couple junior-college players that play. It might be their first year there, but they’ve been on this level before and have been tested through 12 games this year. This is a very big Marshall team. When they go 6-4, 6-9, 6-8, 6-10 two through the five, it’s a big team. Now some of these heights may not be accurate, but just watching them on film – and I know this is an overused saying – they play really hard. I think they carry that over from their coach, Tommy Herrion. They’re going to compete for 40 minutes. I think they were picked second in Conference USA behind Memphis, and they’re going to contend because of their size and athletic ability. They want to get out and run. They’re going to shoot about 20 3s a game, so they’re going to put it up. They’re not going to back down from anybody. There’s no question about that. We’re going to have to come and play and play well.
CoachCal.com extras: In terms of talent, Marshall is probably the best team Kentucky has played since the Baylor game, which UK lost. Marshall’s record isn’t fantastic, but it has played the likes of Villanova, Nevada, Morehead State, West Virginia and Cincinnati. This will be one of the few games this year where the opponent actually has the size to match up with UK from top to bottom. If Kentucky starts the same lineup it did last game (Ryan Harrow, Julius Mays, Archie Goodwin Alex Poythress and Nerlens Noel), Marshall will actually start a taller lineup with an average height of 6-foot-7. That’s a two-inch average height advantage over UK’s projected starting five.
Keys to the game
1. Better communication
2. Trust factor on both ends of the floor
3. Play through possessions
4. Play with joy
What: No. RV/23 UK (7-3) vs. Marshall (7-5)
When: Saturday, 4 p.m. ET
Where: Rupp Arena (23,000)
Game notes: UK | Marshall
Pregame feature: Cats anxious to see if their hard work pays off
Video interviews: Cal, Mays and Poythress
Head coach: Tom Herrion (50-29 at Marshall)
Nickname: Thundering Herd
Conference: Conference USA
Player to watch: D.D. Scarver (15.5 points, 34 3-pointers)
Series history: UK leads 11-0
Last meeting: UK won 89-76 in December 2003
Robic: Offensively or defensively, I think you can wrap our keys to the game in one package for this one. It’s kind of like a few games ago where we threw everything out the window because we are worried and concentrated on what we need to do better. We want to find out if we are going to show improvement in the areas we’ve really been focusing on these last couple of weeks, like communicating better, having a trust factor in one another and playing with maximum effort. Our players are ready to get after it after a week break, but I think the coaches are more anxious to play to see if we can carry over the progress we’ve made in practice. We have gotten better with practice and time. The schedule was designed this year for that in mind. Because of the week that you have off for finals, we’ve tried to play two or three games this week. This team needed more practice time, so I think it worked out nicely in that respect. The guys have been smiling a lot more and are ready to play this one.
CoachCal.com extras: By design, Kentucky has played just one game a week over the last few weeks, all coming on Saturdays. The first week was designed that way for the players to focus on finals, but since then it’s been to open up time for “Camp Cal.” As Robic mentioned, the coaching staff knew it had a young team coming into this season, and the coaches pointed to this always critical time of the year when there are no practice restrictions and Coach Cal can zero in on his team as a period where huge strides could be made. After another week of early morning conditioning sessions and two, sometimes three practices a day, will we see progress? Calipari is hoping he will see more than the “little change” he got a week ago against Lipscomb.
Key matchup – UK’s defense vs. Marshall’s inexperience at PG
Robic: They lost one of their best players, their point guard, DeAndre Kane, a few games ago. I don’t know if he’s going to play or not. We’re going into the game with the thought that he could play. He has a hand injury. It was an off-the-court injury, so we don’t know exactly what it is. He was second in the country in assists before he got hurt, not to mention he’s 6-4, so he’s a big guard. Anytime you take 8.5 assists out, it’s going to hurt. Now they’re playing a freshman, Tamron Manning, that we don’t know a whole lot about. I think Manning played his first extended minutes against Cincinnati and Cincinnati really pressured him, trapped him and made him play faster. That’s something that we may have to do to him as well. They just added another kid at guard (6-4 Kelvin Amayo), but I just read it in the paper. We don’t know anything about him, which makes it near impossible for us to scout for him.
CoachCal.com extras: The UK coaching staff is going into this game with the mentality that Kane could play, but all indications are he’s out for this one. Marshall lists Kane as out indefinitely with a right hand injury. In his place, the Thundering Herd will likely go with local product Tamron Manning, a freshman who played his high school ball at Scott County just a year ago. Manning has good size at 6-4, but teams have tried to take advantage of his inexperience. Marshall has 39 turnovers over its last two games without Kane.
Player to watch for –Marshall shooting guard D.D. Scarver
Robic: They’ve got a really good shooter in Scarver. We’re not going to be able to help off of him quite a bit because of that ability to shoot. He has good size. He’s really shot the ball well lately. We’re going to have to locate him, make him put the ball on the floor and make him uncomfortable.
CoachCal.com extras: Scarver leads Marshall with 34 3-pointers and a 43.0 shooting percentage from the 3-point line, but he’s really been on fire of late. Over the last four games, Scarver has hit 16 of his 30 3-point attempts.
X-factor: Staying focused on task at hand
Robic: These are always games that you worry about because it’s right before the Christmas break. You worry if they’re more concerned about getting out of here after the game and catching a flight and going home than what we need to focus on. We’re really trying to keep them focused. We’ve done a lot with them over the past two or three weeks, going several times a day and keeping them together. I think it’s been going good. Now everyone knows what their commitment levels are. We’ve got to hold them accountable for that.
CoachCal.com extras: Immediately after the game, the players will be let go to enjoy the holiday break with their families. They won’t be back in Lexington until the day after Christmas. For one reason or the other, UK has often played sluggish in the annual game before Christmas. Does that have anything do with players being ready to jump on a flight and get out of here after the game? Who knows, but Marshall isn’t the type of opponent that Kentucky can overlook and cruise into the holidays with.
Team stats and rankings
(national rankings in parentheses)
|Scoring offense||78.1 (30)||72.8 (82)|
|Scoring defense||61.8 (N/A)||68.8 (N/A)|
|FG percentage||49.8 (11)||43.4 (173)|
|FG percentage defense||38.6 (N/A)||40.9 (N/A)|
|3-point percentage||37.6 (53)||34.2 (150)|
|3-point percentage defense||32.9 (N/A)||33.9 (N/A)|
|FT percentage||63.1 (296)||59.2 (334)|
|Rebound margin||+4.2 (N/A)||+4.9 (N/A)|
|Steals per game||7.8 (115)||6.2 (251)|
|Blocks per game||8.0 (4)||4.7 (65)|
|Assists per game||16.6 (25)||15.0 (66)|
|Turnover margin||+2.6 (N/A)||-2.2 (N/A)|
|Points per game||Archie Goodwin (15.8)||D.D. Scarver (15.5)|
|Rebounds per game||Nerlens Noel (9.0)||Dennis Tinnon (9.2)|
|Field-goal percentage||Alex Poythress (65.2)||Jamir Hanner (60.6)|
|3-point percentage||Kyle Wiltjer (41.4)||D.D. Scarver (43.0)|
|Free-throw percentage||Julius Mays (94.4)||D.D. Scarver (82.9)|
|Assists per game||Archie Goodwin (4.4)||DeAndre Kane* (8.5)|
|Blocks per game||Nerlens Noel (3.9)||Nigel Spikes (1.3)|
|Steals per game||Nerlens Noel (2.8)||DeAndre Kane* (1.7)|
*DeAndre Kane is out indefinitely with a hand injury