The final score had a 28-point difference. It had a blowout and two teams seeming to head towards different paths.
But in the end, this game was good for Kentucky and Marshall.
Now you may be asking — “How does an 82-54 blowout benefit either team?”
Let Kentucky coach John Calipari answer that from the Wildcat standpoint.
“We needed a game like this,” Calipari said. “The thing I like about Marshall, was they were a very physical, bump-and-grind team...We needed a like this and we needed (Marshall) to play that way.
“We got better.”
Kentucky got a good, physical win before heading to archrival Louisville on Saturday.
Well, sort of.
“No just for us,” Calipari said before asking who Kentucky plays next week. “Oh, we’re playing Louisville. Oh that’s a tough game. This was just for us.”
For Marshall, and its 28-point loss, it could be hard-pressed to find a bright spot.
Probably the worst part is it’s Marshall’s largest loss in coach Tom Herrion’s tenture .
A bright spot is that plenty of green-wearing Herd fans were in the attendance of 24,271, the largest to see a Marshall basketball game.
But the biggest bright spot for in Herrion’s eyes is his team’s work ethic.
“We’ll bounce back,” Herrion said. “We got guys that work, that is what I’m not worried about.”
This is the lowest point total Marshall has been held to all season, the previous low of 56 coming on Dec. 15 to No. 11 Cincinnati.
But the season is not over yet for the Herd in the mind of Herrion, who said to reporters the players will in the gym as much they can in the next week.
The biggest vote of confidence in the Herd comes from the opposing bench and Calipari.
“Marshall is going to be fine,” Calipari said. “When they get in Conference USA, they’ll win their share of games. They’ll be one of those teams playing for that NCAA bid.”
This year’s Kentucky team has the problem of living up to the lofty expectations of last year’s national championship team.
With three losses already on the young season, many in Big Blue Nation have already started to doubt this team’s ability.
So for those who have no faith in the Wildcats, Herrion has a message for Kentucky fans.
“You can’t flip the the roster every year and expect magic,” Herrion said. “It’s not that sometimes your team is bad, but maybe the other team plays well. It’s like the end of the world is coming if you don’t win or play poorly.
“They ask what’s wrong with Kentucky, but sometimes it’s about the teams you’re playing.”
Even coach Calipari said maybe the expectations on this young team were too much too fast.
But fans’ expectations could grow if this team reaches where he thinks they can go.
“(This game) shows that this team has more upside than any other team in the country,” Calipari said. “We’re going to have games where we don’t shoot it well. It doesn’t matter when you play defense, when you’re rough and you’re tough then you’ll be fine.”
That’s what happened against Marshall.
Kentucky finished the game 3-of-17 from behind the 3-point line.
So how did the Wildcats respond to jumpers not falling? By scoring 52 points in the paint.
“I’m not worried about missed shots, that happens to every team,” Calipari said.
Leading the way was Ryan Harrow, who had a career-high 23 points. More impressive is that the 6-foot-2 guard had 18 of those points come in the paint.
Calipari said when Harrow plays like he did against Marshall the sky is the limit.
“When he’s playing the right way with aggressiveness and talking to his teammates and with that look in his eyes, he’s as good as anybody in the country,” he said. “But the guy who gets bumped and throws up the ball he’s not that good. That other guy who we saw spurts today...just play that way.”
Along with points in the paint Kentucky forced offense with defense, scoring 26 points on turnovers.
Trouble with the Thunder
While Kentucky scored in the paint at will it seemed, Marshall had trouble scoring period.
But the most telling stat for Marshall was 17 turnovers compared to just six assists.
The point guard by committee of Chris Martin and Tamron Manning had just one of those assists.
“Our offensive efficiency is absolutely destroying us,” Herrion said. “We turned the ball over throwing it to the post and we turned the ball over in the post.”
What will help with Marshall is guard DeAndre Kane will return from a hand injury and so will his 8.5 assists per game.
The Herd shot only 29.5 percent from the field on Saturday.
It seems like Marshall is going to lean on a pair of JUCO swingmen in D.D. Scarver and Elijah Pittman.
Scarver had only nine points against Kentucky, but before the game he was leading the team with 15.5 points per game.
Pittman led the Herd on Saturday with 20 points.
The junior though should be used to playing in Rupp Arena. In 2009 he and Covington Holmes won the state championship.
Marshall, like Kentucky, has a big break before its next game.
It plays Delaware State at home on Jan. 2.
“It’s a lousy way to go into Christmas break,” Herrion said. “We have to exhale and then we have some time off which is needed. We have to regroup and come back.”
KYLE HOBSTETTER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2658.