SCOUTING THE HIGHLANDERS
Head coach Brad Greenberg's team has yet to win a game on the road, has yet to be competitive in the vast majority of outings and has yet to beat a Division I squad with a win. Where Delaware State's overscheduling is a primary reason for its record, Radford simply hasn't been able to play comfortably as a unit. This is the worst team West Virginia has faced – and likely will face – this season, and the game, frankly, should not be close. The Highlanders are led by 6-11 center Artisom Parakhouski. The 242-pounder averages 14.2 points per game on 53.6 percent shooting. He averages almost 10 rebounds per game, almost half on offense for solid putback chances. He also converts effectively from the foul line, and will take the very rare three-pointer. Parakhouski's inside game is balanced by guard Kenny Thomas. His 14.6 point average leads the team and the senior is by far the squad's best shooter at 41.5 percent from the field and 41.9 percent from three-point range. At 6-3, 182 pounds, Thomas can't shoot directly over many defenders, but is able to use his strength to drive past and finish.
Guard Martell McDuffy, 6-4, 187 pounds, is also a threat from the outside. The DeMatha High standout is excellent at drawing fouls and forcing foes to collapse on drives, then kicking to open teammates. He's as seasoned as collegiate players come, and a sort of jack-of-all-trades in terms of skillset. Point player and Pittsburgh native Amir Johnson isn't a terrific scorer at eight points per game. But the junior has started since the inception of his Radford career and finished with the second-most single-season assists (155) last year, including a career-high 11 versus WVU. The 5-9, 193-pounder has 54 assists to 34 turnovers this year, and takes care of the ball as well as any other player the Mountaineers will see in non-conference action. Forward Joey Lynch-Flohr, 6-8, 221 pounds, averages 13 points and five rebounds. He shoots well, but lacks the range to be a threat from outside. The junior doesn't have a three-point attempt this season. Lynch-Flohr is prone to turnovers via poor passes, but can threaten teams with putbacks and decent rebounding.
Backups Eric Hall (6-8, 203) and Phillip Martin (6-6, 190) combine for 5.5 points and six rebounds. Neither is an outside threat, nor does either handle the ball well. That lack of versatility is a major part of the problem for Greenberg, whose team has experience and some ability. The pair is serviceable, but not much more. They don't shoot well, are not threats for breakouts and can't defensively handle the sort of talent they will see from the Mountaineers. But Greenberg lacks the luxury of numbers, and so plays Hall 20 minutes and Martin 15 on average.
Radford's RPI ranking of 333 is well earned. The Highlanders don't do anything especially well, and the team hasn't jelled and isn't showing signs of such. It's not the worst program or team in the Division I ranks, but it does more than flirt with the bottom tier. West Virginia can use an easy win, which it should get, and a bit more rest for a team that has played the fewest home games in the Big East and thus far been in three time zones and played in Las Vegas, Mississippi and New York, among other locations. The Mountaineers should be able to out-shoot, outrebound and outplay Radford, though the score likely won't rival the blowout against Miami (Ohio).
|Tue. Dec. 23
7:00 p.m. EST
West Virginia 3-0
WVU - 33
Radford - 333
Head coach Bob Huggins should be able to rest his team for a major test at Ohio State on Dec. 27. This game was expected to be among the easier tests this season, and it comes at a beneficial time on the schedule. After Radford, West Virginia goes to Columbus, then begins Big East play with two road games in the first three with the lone home contest coming against Connecticut. The Highlanders are the final home game before a trio of stretches in which WVU plays four of five, five of seven and seven of 11 contests away from home. This is a should-win, a final tune-up of sorts before Huggins' scheduling tactics once again hit back.
Radford, meanwhile, is 1-7 after season-opening wins over Brevard College and Bridgewater College. Wake Forest looms after West Virginia, and with the Highlanders struggling even with a schedule strength of 288, it could be quite the long season. Of Division I foes, Radford is in the midst of a stretch in which it plays nine of 12 games away from home. The high (or low, depending upon view) point is, ironically, High Point – the lone team left on the schedule with a worst RPI rating than Radford. High Point checks in at 337 of 343 teams.
Huggins will attempt to win his 625th career game as a head coach. The win would put him in sole possession of 28th place on the all-time NCAA list. Huggins is currently tied with Norm Sloan and needs just seven more victories to pass Cam Henderson for 27th place. If the Mountaineers win out through the Marshall game, Huggins would tie Henderson – MU's former coach who is credited with inventing the zone defense and the fast break – in the Capital Classic. Marshall's gym, built as part of the deal to construct "new" Mountaineer Field/Milan Puskar Stadium, is named for Henderson.
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Radford's Phillip Martin had career-high of nine rebounds against West Virginia Wesleyan College two seasons ago. Eric Hall, like Martin a reserve forward, is a native of Greensboro, N.C. – the hometown of WVU receiver Dorrell Jalloh. Jollah has a career edge on Hall in key two-pointers.
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This series is the most lopsided of any WVU plays this season. The Mountaineers lead 3-0, with wins of 90-60 (last year), 78-44 (2004-05) and 83-49 (1991-92). That's a 33-point average victory margin. Huggins is 1-0 versus Radford, which has lost its last three and 27 of 40 under Greenberg.
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Can anybody name the monikers used by Radford's first two foes – Brevard College and Bridgewater College? Brevard, located in the city of same name in North Carolina, is the Tornados. The school offers a varsity cycling team. Bridgewater, in the Virginia city of same name, is nicknamed the Eagles. One of the varsity sports I riding. West Virginia natives Mark Gibbs (Huntington) and Kyle Hammond (Bluefield) play for Bridgewater's basketball team.