HUNTINGTON – Marshall’s men’s basketball team will play defending national champion Kentucky on Dec. 22 at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky.
The game was announced by Marshall University on July 10, confirming a game Marshall players were talking about in last April’s team banquet.
It will be one of three games against the nation’s elite for Tom Herrion’s third Herd team, as Marshall will also battle both West Virginia and Cincinnati in December at the Charleston (W.Va.) Civic Center.
It will be the first match-up between UK head coach John Calipari and the Thundering Herd since the former Memphis coach left the Tigers to coach the ‘Cats in April of 2009.
"We are excited for the opportunity to play the defending national champions and one of the most storied programs in all of college basketball," Herrion said.
"We recognize the great challenge this presents, but our kids will prepare to compete at a very high level. This is a great opportunity for our players and fans to experience Rupp Arena. We hope to sprinkle some Kelly green in the sea of blue."
It will be the first meeting between the two programs since an 89-76 win by the Wildcats on Dec. 1, 2003 in Cincinnati, when Head Coach Ron Jirsa’s Herd had a good showing against UK.
MU guard Ronnie Dawn — a native of the Cincinnati area, who played at Newport Central Catholic H.S. while growing up Ft. Thomas on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River — hit seven threes against the ‘Cats in the UK win at U.S. Bank Arena.
It is the first time the Herd will visit Kentucky’s Rupp Arena since Nov. 16, 2001 when the Wildcats won 90-73, a 26-point loss.
Coach Greg White saw the 2001-02 season open 0-2 with losses first to George Washington on Nov. 15, 69-64, then losing that next night to UK in the NABC Classic in Lexington.
UK leads the all-time series 11-0 including a 8-0 mark at home, also beating the Herd in Louisville, Ky. when Marshall was coached by second year Head Coach Billy Donovan in 1995-96, 118-95.
The first meeting of the Wildcats and the Thundering Herd was the only one at Marshall.
UK came on Jan. 21, 1914, when the Herd lost to visiting Kentucky, 46-6, in Huntington.
All other contests have been in Lexington or at a neutral site, including a meeting in 1932-33, won by UK, 53-26, in Ashland, Ky.
Coach Rick Huckabay came close at UK in 1988-89, falling to the ‘Cats 89-76 (tying the other 13 point loss in 2003-04), with no fouls called against Kentucky in the final eight minutes of the game in Rupp Arena.
This fact Huckabay pointed out animatedly to the assembled media corps after the game, who had gathered for a couple of “well, we played well” comments by the coach of the Herd on Dec. 17, 1988.
Huckabay suggested if the Secret Service was short of manpower, he felt the referees from that game could protect the President as well as they protected UK from any chance of losing the game to MU.
It is the first time Marshall will play a defending national champion since 2009, when No. 10 North Carolina beat the Herd in Chapel Hill, N.C., 98-61, under then Head Coach Donnie Jones.