Huggins, WVU Prepare For Tilt With Radford

The availability of Devin Ebanks, the improvment of Radford and the strength of the Big East in non-conference play were just a few of the items touched on by head coach Bob Huggins during a Monday conference call. Huggins also discussed West Virginia's upcoming game at Ohio State.

West Virginia has battled through a slew of injuries in recent weeks, with three starters missing time due to various ailments. The latest victim of the injury bug is freshman forward Devin Ebanks. The Long Island City, N.Y. native started the first 10 games of the season for WVU, but did not start in Saturday's win over Miami University.

Ebanks did play 11 minutes against the RedHawks, but saw his streak of three consecutive double-doubles come to an end in his limited minutes. Ebanks is nursing injuries to his left ankle and left knee. West Virginia's medical staff cleared him to play against Miami.

"Our medical staff said (he) can go," said head coach Bob Huggins during a Monday conference call. "Devin had a bike back there (behind the bench) that he was trying to keep his knee loose and everything. The swelling was gone."

It does appear that Ebanks will be available for Tuesday night's non-conference tilt with Radford at the Coliseum.

"He practiced yesterday (Sunday)," Huggins said. "He limped around a bit, but he did go yesterday."

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Tuesday's game will be the second of a home-and-home West Virginia scheduled with Radford. Last season, WVU made the short trip to southwestern Virginia as a homecoming for then-senior point guard Darris Nichols, who had a career night in the return to his hometown.

This season's date falls just two days before Christmas. West Virginia had all of last week off between the win at Duquesne and Saturday's game against Miami of Ohio. Following this coming Saturday's game against Ohio State, the Mountaineers will not play until January 3 at Seton Hall. Given his choice, Huggins likely would rather have scheduled the Radford game for either last week or next week. According to the coach, though, West Virginia's hands were tied.

"(Tuesday night) is the only time they said they could play," said Huggins. "I'd just as soon not do it. I'd rather the kids get to go home (for the holidays), but we don't have any other choice."

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If you are headed to the Coliseum on Tuesday night, expect to see an improved Radford team from the group of Highlanders WVU played last December.

"They're a lot better than they were last year," Huggins noted. "They have a big 6-10, 6-11 kid that scores the ball and then they have another big kid inside that plays well for them. They can shoot it pretty well."

Despite the noticeable improvement, RU is just 3-7 through its first 10 games. The Highlanders have lost to the likes of Duquesne, Virginia, James Madison and George Mason. Radford's best win was a 73-52 pasting of conference foe Winthrop.

"I think their record is a bit deceiving," Huggins said. "They probably figured they would win more than they have to this point."

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Huggins also offered his comments on the play of the Big East as a whole so far this season. The conference is expected to be the cream of the college basketball crop this year, and got a trio of notable non-conference wins this weekend.

"I think that's how you make your distinction as a league is in the non-league (schedule)," Huggins said. "We've stubbed our toe a little bit like most leagues have, but I don't think that there's any question that the Connecticut win out West (over Gonzaga) was great, particularly being down 15 and coming back."

Other marquee wins for the league over the weekend included Syracuse's victory over Memphis in FedExForum and Pitt's win at Florida State.

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West Virginia will have a chance to add to the Big East's list of marquee non-conference wis this Saturday's at Ohio State. Huggins has been impressed so far with what he has seen from the Buckeyes, who recently lost forward David Lighty to a foot injury.

"They're playing really well," he said of OSU. "They've started the two bigs. Lighty got hurt so they are starting (B.J.) Mullens and (Dallas) Lauderdale both. (Evan) Turner and (Jon) Diebler have played well for them. They're going to bring William Buford in I'm sure and he shoots it extremely well. It's nice to bring a McDonald's All-Americans off the bench."

WVU-Ohio State will tip at 4 PM on Saturday. the game will be televised nationally by CBS.


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