HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -Two strong emotions will collide tonight when Marshall takes on Southern Mississippi at Cam Henderson Center.
First, it will be senior night for three Thundering Herd players - Nigel Spikes, Dennis Tinnon and Robert Goff. They will be accompanied to the floor by varying family members, basking in the applause from the home crowd and receiving a memento of their days in Huntington.
Then those seniors, along with their teammates, must turn around and face a team that inflicted the most embarrassing loss a Marshall team has suffered in 37 years. That 102-46 loss to Southern Miss on Jan. 23 in Hattiesburg, Miss., has punctuated a surprisingly difficult season.
The Herd would love to puncture the Golden Eagles' NCAA tournament bubble in the 7 p.m. game televised by CBS Sports Network.
"It's definitely a statement game," Goff said. "We're definitely going to come out playing like that, especially us three seniors, me, 'Scoop' and Dennis. We just have to come out and bring it. It's in the back of our minds."
Before practice Monday afternoon, the three seniors had more pleasant thoughts about their playing careers and their futures. All have enjoyed big games and big moments - for example, all played important roles in the Herd's run to last year's Conference USA championship game and subsequent National Invitation Tournament bid.
"It was exciting to know I played role in helping us get there," Tinnon said. "We're struggling this year, but I think we still have a chance to get there. I'm going to do anything in my heart, in my power to help us get these three or four games in a row, get to the championship game and beat whoever we have to play."
Spikes is the elder statesman, having come to Marshall in 2008 as a nonqualifier. He enters tonight having started 61 of his 119 games, scoring 512 points with 610 rebounds and 115 blocks - the latter number sixth on MU's all-time list.
He was particularly happy to swat nine at home against Central Florida and ex-Herd coach Donnie Jones. "That felt pretty good - and I did it against the old coach," he said with a grin.
Tinnon and Goff are finishing two-year careers, with Tinnon proving to be a prodigious rebounder from the minute he donned a green uniform. The Green Bay, Wis., native has 620 rebounds in 64 games, tying him for 22nd with four-year starter Tom Curry (1984-88).
Furthermore, Tinnon is one of six MU players to have at least 600 rebounds over two seasons. Also contributing 664 points, he has 21 career double-doubles, nine this season.
He's sorry he hasn't racked up more.
"I could have had 50 of them," he quipped.
Goff has started the last three games and 40 of his 61. He has contributed 313 points and 250 rebounds, with 58 blocks.