Friday, Nov. 26, 2010 | 2:14 a.m.
Friday's 76 Classic Winner's Bracket/Loser's Bracket Semifinal Match-ups
11:30 A.M. Virginia Tech vs. Oklahoma State (Winner's Bracket/ESPN or ESPN2)
2:00 P.M. Cal State Northridge vs. DePaul (Loser's Bracket/ESPNU)
6:30 P.M. UNLV vs. Murray State (Winner's Bracket/ESPNU)
8:30 P.M. Stanford vs. Tulsa (Loser's Bracket/ESPNU)
ANAHEIM, Calif. — For Anthony Marshall and Donte Poole, the pleasantries will be put on hold for about two hours.
The two close friends and former Mojave High teammates will square off for the first time — officially — when UNLV (4-0) and Murray State (3-1) meet tonight in the winner's bracket semifinals of the 76 Classic.
They were teammates on the Mojave team that made it to the state title game in 2007, when Marshall was a sophomore and Poole a senior. Poole would spend a year at a prep school before heading off to Murray State.
"He was kind of my big brother my freshman year (at Mojave) up until he left," Marshall said of Poole. "We've played a lot against each other in the summer in pick-up games, but never in a real game.
"We really never thought about us playing each other, and they're all the way (in Kentucky) and we're all the way over on our side, so to see us finally get matched up, it's going to be pretty exciting."
The two schools are separated by more than 1,700 miles, but the two are in nearly constant contact via Twitter throughout the year.
Still, Marshall had not seen much of Murray State until catching the first half of their 55-52 victory over Stanford in earlier 76 Classic action while still at the team hotel Thursday.
"They can get out and run, from what I saw," he said. "They like to get out in transition, have some guys who can shoot, jump passing lanes."
Poole, a 6-foot-3, 185-pound wing, was responsible for three of Murray State's six steals against Stanford. The team forced 18 Cardinal turnovers, while Poole scored six points on the offensive end.
The Racers are not new to successfully forcing their style on teams from larger conferences.
Last March, as a 13-seed in the NCAA tournament, they upset Vanderbilt in the first round in San Jose, Calif. Two days later, they came within two points of knocking off eventual national runner-up Butler, falling 54-52.
Poole serves as a back-up to a veteran group of wings. Seniors B.J. Jenkins and Isaac Miles share the point guard responsibilities, while sophomore Isaiah Canaan is averaging 10.8 points per game.
Their big men aren't huge, but very active and athletic. Junior Ivan Aska and senior Jeffery McClain combined for 13 points and nine rebounds against a Stanford front line that had a significant size and depth advantage.
Fourth-year coach Bill Kennedy is 87-45 in his five seasons with the Racers, and UNLV is 2-0 all-time against Murray State, though the two programs haven't met since a 1982 first round NIT contest in Las Vegas.
The UNLV frontcourt trio of Quintrell Thomas, Brice Massamba and Carlos Lopez again collectively ran into a decent amount of foul trouble.
Massamba ended up fouling out in 13 minutes, tallying seven points and three rebounds, while Lopez had six and three, respectively, in 15 minutes off of the bench.
Starting center Quintrell Thomas, who was limited to 15 minutes in UNLV's previous two games combined due to foul issues, played only 11. However, he was able to stay on the floor for a regular amount of run in the first half, finishing with eight points and two boards. He finished with four fouls.
In the second half, Kruger even opted for a much smaller lineup that didn't include any of the three.
Odds and ends
— While Thomas only played four second half minutes, the same went for sophomore guard Justin Hawkins, who again provided a nice defensive presence while playing 13 minutes in the first half.
— Chace Stanback and Oscar Bellfield each spent a bit more time than normal on the bench in the second half. Bellfield dealt with upper leg cramps early in the half, while Stanback's issue was a lost contact lens.
— In attendance at a game for the first time this season was former UNLV forward Matt Shaw. The former 3-point aficionado was lost unexpectedly for the season following a positive drug test administered at the NCAA tournament back in March. He was suspended for a year by the NCAA, and having already used his redshirt season in 2008-09, it ended his UNLV career. Shaw stayed on scholarship and graduated, and said he's now working toward a professional basketball career.
Elsewhere in the field
On the other side of the bracket, the two obvious favorites — Virginia Tech and Oklahoma State — advanced on the winner's side and will meet at 11:30 a.m. Friday.
The Hokies slugged host Cal State Northridge, 72-56, while the Cowboys were pushed a bit more than expected by DePaul before edging the Blue Demons 60-56.
In the loser's bracket, Northridge and DePaul will meet at 2 p.m., while Tulsa and Stanford square off in the 8:30 p.m. nightcap.