Preview: West Virginia - Radford

Hey! There's a basketball game tonight! We interrupt the football circus for a look at tonight's contest against Radford.

SCOUTING THE HIGHLANDERS

Radford features a balanced scoring attack, with four players in double figures, but after that quartet the point production falls off precipitously. With only one consistent three-point threat on the floor, the Highlanders can struggle to score against good defensive teams.

Junior guard Martell McDuffy leads the team at 15 points per game, but is shaky from three-point range (29.3%) and in ballhandling (he has almost four times as many assists as he does turnovers). McDuffy (6-4, 185 lbs.) doesn't have any problem getting shots off, so defensive opponents should always think shot first when squaring up with him. Backcourt mate Amir Johnson (5-9, 190 lbs.) directs the attack, but also has the time to add 12.9 points per game to the Radford attack. He has suffered 52 turnovers in 12 games this year, which helps explain the Highlanders' 223 giveaways on the season. Junior Kenny Thomas (6-3, 180 lbs.) rounds out the three-guard set. He averages 14 points per contest, is the team's most consistent shooting threat, and adds 4.0 rebounds per game.

Up front, Joey Lynch-Flohr (6-8, 220 lbs.) is the force, averaging 11.0 points and a team-best 5.9 rebounds per contest. He like many of his mates is foul prone, as he has been disqualified from four of Radford's 12 games this year. The fifth starter could be either slender senior Duane Ricks (6-9, 190 lbs.) or Eric Hall (6-8, 205 lbs.) Neither is a scoring threat, combining to average just 4.5 points per game, but they do team up for 5.4 rebounds per outing.

Off the bench, four players are averaging double-digits in minutes, but none have reached the level of productivity needed to help Radford get to the level of offensive consistency it needs. Junior swingman Jamar Jenkins (6-6, 215 lbs.) tallies 4.0 points per contest, and will see action at both the guard and forward spots, while sophomore Cole Wilder (6-1, 180 lbs.) gets the bulk of the backup action at the point position.

OUTLOOK

While this game gives West Virginia a chance to experience its first true road game of the season (games outside the Coliseum against Tennessee, New Mexico State and Auburn were neutral court encounters), that's probably about the only difficulty in this contest for the Mountaineers.

BlueGoldNews.com
Game Info
Wed Dec 19
7:00 p.m.

Dedmon Center
Radford, Va.
Records
WVU 8-1, 0-0
RU 4-8, 0-0
Series
WVU 2-0
TV
Big South Sports.com
Pay Per View
Sirius Channel: 118
RPI
WVU - 20
RU - 321
While the Highlanders' gym will be packed to the rafters, WVU has been all about taking care of business this year. Different from the Beilein squads, which played games almost dispassionately, Huggs Heroes are scrapping and clawing on defense, and attacking the rim with abandon. It's hard to imagine them being affected much by a road crowd.

This will certainly be a big event on the Radford campus. With a major Division I team from a power conference paying a visit, the Highlanders will sure be excited. It's not hard to image them hitting a couple of big shots early and staying in the game, especially if the crowd gets into it. Unless WVU completely falls apart (and it's hard to imagine this team doing so), the Mountaineers should eventually take control of the contest. West Virginia's in-your-face defense will be something Radford will be hard-pressed to handle for 40 minutes.

One thing that is playing to the advantage of this team is the attention being focused on the football program right now. The Mountaineers are ranked 24th in the AP Poll and 27th in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll, in the top 20 of the RPI, yet that news has barely been noticed while "As Rodriguez Turns" plays out over the airwaves and across the Internet. That may be a good thing in the long run for this team – not that it doesn't deserve the attention. But toiling in the shadows for a while (especially if the win totals continue to mount) could be good. WVU might sneak up on a few foes early in the Big East season. Not that they need it, of course, or that Huggins wants it. The WVU head coach never backs down from challenges, and he wants to instill that in his players. Open the Big East season at Notre Dame, vs. Marquette and at Louisville? No problem. Bring ‘em on. But being under the radar might just be a little extra benefit.

On on-court item to keep an eye on is the use of Wellington Smith, and the rotation pattern of Jamie Smalligan. Smith was, as usual, the first man off the bench against UMBC, but he didn't sub in for Smalligan. Instead, he paired with the big center on the front line, giving WVU a much bigger presence. Some substitutions are obviously keyed to what the opponent is doing, but this one seemed more about what WVU was doing. A frontcourt lineup of Smalligan, Smith and Joe Alexander would provide some interesting options on offense.

INJURY REPORT

WVU: None

RU: None Reported

FAST BREAKS

The game in the 5,000-seat Dedmon Center is a sellout. It is the first time that a Big East team has ever played a game at Radford. The contest was set up as a visit to the hometown or WVU point guard Darris Nichols, who played at Radford High School.

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Totally useless stat – or is it? West Virginia is 7-1 this year when winning the opening tip. While that seems totally trivial, it does ensure that WVU will have at least the same number of possessions as its opponent. WVU rarely won tips during its NCAA runs, so this obviously isn't an earthshaking stat, but it is kinda fun to track.

In the same vein, the Mountaineers have yet to wear white uniforms this season.

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In 12 games, Radford has had 13 players foul out. While some of that can be explained away due to competition against schools such as Georgetown (a 110-51 loss) and James Madison (85-74 defeat), it demonstrates that the Highlanders have some flaws in their defensive techniques. Reaching, instead of moving feet and defending with body position, is a chief cause of fouling, and it's a fair bet that Radford suffers from this malady. Unless, that is, it averages about 15 offensive fouls per game.

Radford has struggled so much that it actually lost to Michigan, which in turn lost to a directional Michigan school on its home court last week.

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