By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
If the Marshall men’s basketball team wants to claim its first NCAA tournament appearance in nearly 30 years, they need to win games like this one.
Marshall (6-4), which has won four of its last five games, will host No. 11 Cincinnati (9-0) today at the Charleston Civic Center. Tip-off is slated for 2 p.m.
If the Thundering Herd isn’t able to win the Conference USA tournament in March, Marshall will have to hope for an at-large berth. A win over the Bearcats will help the cause.
Cincinnati leads the series 19-12, but the Herd won 73-69 in overtime last year. Marshall last played in the NCAA tournament in 1987.
Marshall will have to play without star guard DeAndre Kane, who is out with a hand injury. Kane leads the Herd in scoring with 16.0 points a game. He is also second in the nation with 8.5 assists.
The Herd will depend on JUCO transfers Elijah Pittman (14.2) and D.D. Scarver (14.8), along with seniors post men Dennis Tinnon (11.4 ppg, 9.7 reb) and Nigel Spikes (7.6 ppg, 9.2 reb).
Cincinnati, which hasn’t been ranked as high as 11th since 2003, joins Marshall as one of the top rebounding teams in the country. The Bearcats are second nationally, pulling down 46.8 caroms per game. They’ll led by Sean Kilpatrick (20.0 ppg, 6.1 reb).
Marshall has another key game next Saturday, with a trip on tap to Kentucky.
•Virginia Tech (8-1), which rebounded from a one-point loss to West Virginia with a 70-49 win over Mississippi Valley State on Monday, returns to Cassell Coliseum today to face Georgia Southern in the second round of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic.
The Hokies are led by Erick Green, who is second in America in scoring at 24.4 points per game. C.J. McCollum of Lehigh is tops at 24.9. Georgia Southern (3-5) is paced by Eric Ferguson (15.4 ppg, 7.8 reb).
Virginia Tech will travel to Las Vegas next weekend, playing Bradley on Dec. 22, followed on Sunday by playing in the consolation or championship game against Colorado State or Portland.
•Concord (5-2, 2-2) at West Virginia Tech: Concord defeated the Bears 93-78 at the Carter Center on Dec. 3. Damien Tunstalle is seventh in the WVIAC, scoring 19.3 points a game. The Mountain Lions return to action on Jan. 3 by hosting the University of Charleston.
Bluefield (6-5, 2-2) at Virginia-Lynchburg: Bluefield, which lost to UVa-Lynchburg 80-74 to open the season, has won two straight after losing four in a row. The Rams, who are led by Byron Carpenter (25.0 ppg, 7.1), Kearston Marion (21.1 ppg), Andrew Wilson (16.5) and Deante Hallums (8.1 ppg, 6.8), will host UVa-Wise on Jan. 3.
•Bluefield State (0-8, 0-4): The Big Blues will seek their first win of the season on Tuesday when Alderson-Broaddus visits Ned Shott Gymnasium. The Blues are led in scoring by Vincent Rogers (16.3).
•Virginia (8-2): Virginia has won six straight, including wins over Wisconsin and Tennessee. Joe Harris (14.8 ppg) and Akil Mitchell (13.4 ppg, 9.2 reb) pace the Cavaliers, who will host Morgan State on Wednesday.
•Saturday: Ohio at Marshall (5-4): Marshall recently split a pair of games at the Texas A&M Classic. Shay Weaver is scoring 11.8 points a contest. Princeton senior standout McKenzie Akers will play for the Herd next season.
•Bluefield (9-3, 2-2) vs. Newport News Apprentice): The Rams are participating in a tournament in Lynchburg this weekend. The Rams are led by Tequila McNeal (15.4 ppg, 4.9 reb), Ashley White (14.4 ppg, 3.6 ast) and Janee Simmons (10.8 ppg, 6.3 reb). Bluefield plays UVa-Lynchburg on Sunday and will host UVa-Wise on Jan. 3.
•Sunday: Florida-Gulf Coast at Virginia Tech (4-4): The Hokies are 0-3 vs. Big 10 competition, including a 60-41 loss to No. 11 Penn State on Wednesday. Monet Tellier leads the Hokies (12.9 ppg).
•Youngstown State at West Virginia (6-2): The No. 25 Mountaineers have sandwiched two losses between a pair of three-game win streaks. West Virginia last played last Sunday, defeating St. Bonaventure 67-47, led by 17 points each from Christal Caldwell and Ayana Dunning.
•Herb Sims Classic: Salem International vs. Bluefield State (2-2, 2-2): The Lady Blues will land back in the WVIAC on Tuesday by hosting Alderson-Broaddus. Bluefield State has been led in scoring by Charity Harris, who was sixth in the league with 17.5 points a game.
•Concord (3-7, 2-2): Princeton product Amanda Smith leads the Lady Lions with 14.4 points a contest. Concord defeated West Virginia Wesleyan 64-59 last Saturday and won’t play again until Jan. 3 against Charleston.
Virginia (5-3): The Cavaliers, who will host Coppin State on Tuesday and visit Alabama on Friday, have lost three of four since a 4-0 start.