HUNTINGTON - With its nation-leading rebounding game, Marshall's inside men have gotten two healthy samples of Big East basketball, preparing them to a large extent for West Virginia.
But the Thundering Herd has yet to experience the inside-outside prowess of Kevin Jones, the Big East's leader in scoring and rebounding. And the Herd is bracing for that bearded Turkish native, Deniz Kilicli.
To hear coach Tom Herrion and his players speak, Kilicli is underlisted at 6-foot-9, 260 pounds. Way, way underlisted.
"One I look at him, I think of a lumberjack," said Dennis Tinnon, the Herd's rebounding machine. "A real big frame, body, got the beard going on. He's a pretty good player; I think he is. He just takes up a lot of space."
"He's 'Man Mountain Dean,' " Herrion said. "He blocks the moon. He blocks the sun; that's how big he is. People don't realize how enormously big and strong he is, but he's got great agility and tremendous touch, because as a right-handed post guy, he plays as a left-hander.
"He's gotten way better, so he causes major problems, especially with him and Kevin. Kevin can stretch you out and when Truck [Bryant] is making 3s, they've good balance, inside and out."
Kilicli looked dominant early in last year's Capital Classic, scoring eight points in the first 12 minutes. But he failed to score in the final 28 minutes, finishing 4-of-10 from the floor in Marshall's 75-71 victory.
Jones went 3-of-9, scoring nine points and six rebounds. When the ball goes up at 7:30 tonight at the Civic Center, nobody in the Marshall camp expects numbers that low.
Forward Dago Pena is ready to hand Jones the Big East's player of the year award now, and Herrion wouldn't dispute it.
"You lead that conference in scoring and rebounding - I mean, I've been in that league twice, and that says enough," said Herrion, a former Pitt and Providence assistant. "You do that in that league and that means you're in talks for player of the year on the national level.
"That's a credit to Kevin, and the development from the staff he's had from his freshman year. I recruited him when I was at Pitt, and clearly he's made great strides."
Herrion's Marshall team lives by rebounding, to a large degree. In last year's game, the Herd (13-4) held an advantage until the game's end, when WVU's late-game rally gave it a one-board edge.
Since then, the Herd has been outrebounded three times - all last season. This season, it has been tied once, when it used a short lineup much of the way against Jacksonville State.
Otherwise, pure dominance - to the tune of plus-190 in 17 games. The plus-11.2 average leads Division I after last weekend's games.