Radford is led by sophomore forward Chris Oliver (6-7, 200 lbs.) whose name tops the stat sheet for just about every Highlander game this year. He's averaging 20.2 points and 8.0 rebounds per game, and is the first option in the Radford attack. Oliver is solid across the board, hitting 66.7% from the field and 58.3% from three point range, while also canning 76.9% from the line.
The situation around Oliver up front has been far less productive and stable. Five players have started at least one game this year for the Highlanders, as head coach Byron Samuels has been searching for a solid starting lineup.
Centers Duane Ricks (6-11 190 lbs.), Josh Fox (6-8, 205 lbs.) and Ivan Wilson (6-9, 245 lbs.) have teamed up to provide 25 minutes of time per game in the post, but none of the trio averages more than three points or two rebounds per game. Fox looks to be the best offensively of the three, but so far that position hasn't added much punch to the Highlander lineup.
Forwards Reggie McIntyre (6-4, 210 lbs.) and Chris Goodin (6-6, 235 lbs.) team up to average 10.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per contest, but neither is a particularly good shooter.
The backcourt is a different story. Whit Holcomb-Faye (6-1, 170 lbs.) and Olumuyiwa Popoola (6-4, 195 lbs.) are both good shooters who can hit jump shots with regularity. Holcomb-Faye (15.8 ppg) is actually shooting better from three-point range that from the field overall (45% and 40%, respectively), while Popoola is a rangy player who has the ability to shoot over defenders. They are backed up by Brandon Jeffers (6-4, 210 lbs.), who also averages double figures (10.4 ppg) despite coming off the bench in all five Highlander games to date. He's shooting 50% from the field, and provides an immediate scoring threat that must be accounted for.
West Virginia perimeter defense vs. Radford guards
We usually highlight a one-on-one matchup, but this battle seems far too important to overlook. Radford relies on perimeter shooting a great deal, and their battle to get open against West Virginia's 1-3-1 defense should be an interesting one.
|Sat 12/4 7:00 p.m.
WVU 3-0, 0-0
Radford 4-1, 0-0
WVU - 34
RU - 223
If the key to real estate is location, location, location, then the linchpin for the Mountaineer defense is rotation, rotation, rotation. When the ball goes to one side of the floor, and particularly the baseline, the back side of the 1-3-1 has to rotate down to fill the lane and the weak side blocks, and also position itself for possible rebounds. However, when the ball comes back to the other side, those players have to recover quickly and get outside to guard potential shooters. Playing the wing on the 1-3-1 is physically tiring, as players there cover a bit more ground than they do in more conventional zones, and offenses can wear down those players by working the ball patiently for shots.
With Radford's bigger guards and smaller front line, West Virginia might also be able to employ more man to man defense in this contest. That, of course, makes it easier to keep track of shooters on the weak side of the offense, but also opens up the interior for more penetration. This game could be an excellent chance for WVU's coaches to assess how far its man defense has progressed, and whether or not it is ready for more use in the tough conference battles to come.
WVU: Mike Gansey (thigh) Will play
Fans and players expecting West Virginia to just roll the balls out on the floor and crush the Highlanders might be in for a rude awakening. Comparative scores and opponents mean little when looking at each individual game. Those pointing to West Virginia's 15-point win over LSU and expecting double that number against a Big South foe simply aren't thinking things through.
Of course, WVU is favored in this contest, and if it plays well should record a victory. However, any team that can shoot the ball has a puncher's chance in any game, and the Highlanders certainly have that ability. They are shooting 46.9% from the field as a team, and a solid 39.6% from three point range. They can put three players who shoot 45% or better from long range on the court at the same time, which could create matchup problems for the Mountaineer defense.
One thing to watch for is the play and demeanor of WVU center D'or Fischer. Reading between the lines of his postgame comments after the LSU game, Fischer was reportedly a bit unhappy over his playing time. While that's understandable after a season in which six Mountaineers got the bulk of the minutes, this year's team must realize that a deeper team, while allowing for less playing time per person, should result in fresher legs, and hopefully more wins, come February and March. This is the type of game that Fischer should dominate in. He needs to establish his presence early in the lane, make some strong offensive moves, and shut down the lane against a Highlander team that isn't exactly suited to playing inside.
Radford sophomore Andre Bynum was a standout high school footballer before deciding to play basketball for the Highlanders. Bynum threw for 1,414 yards and 15 touchdowns for Ashbrook High School in Gastonia, N.C. during his senior season, earning runner up player of the year honors for his area.
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After suffering free throw shooting problems a year ago, Radford seems to have corrected that flaw. The Highlanders are hitting 73.3% of their attempts so far this year.
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Radford has is an impressive 228-63 at the Dedmon Center, which has been nicknamed the "Terrordome". Twice in the last 11 seasons, the Highlanders have gone undefeated at home, and in five other seasons since the facility opened have suffered just one loss. West Virginia will play one game in the facility as part of the two-for-one contract.