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Mountaineers still dealing with short bench vs. Georgia Southern

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Through the first three games of the season, West Virginia's basketball team has faced essentially the same challenges from opponents while dealing with their own sometimes challenging circumstances.

That's not likely to change at 7 tonight when the Mountaineers play Georgia Southern at the Coliseum.

For starters, the visiting Eagles (2-1) are much like Mount St. Mary's, Virginia Tech and Duquesne - perimeter-oriented and with a penchant for shooting 3-pointers.

"They're kind of like what we've been playing,'' WVU coach Bob Huggins said Wednesday. "They spread the floor, they shoot a lot of 3s and they're guard-oriented.''

As for West Virginia (2-1), the Mountaineers are still dealing with being short-handed. That's something they expected to have to handle all year, of course, but injuries have even further depleted the available roster.

Sophomore guard Terry Henderson is still limited a bit with a shin problem, although he did manage to play 27 minutes in Sunday's 96-83 win over Duquesne after missing the opener and playing just eight minutes in a loss at Virginia Tech.

"It still bothers me, but it's not something that's going to keep me from playing,'' Henderson said. "Sometimes you just have to take the pain.''

If it was just Henderson hurt, the injury problem wouldn't be quite as bad. But junior guard Gary Browne sat out the Duquesne game after injuring a leg in practice and then trying to play through it at Virginia Tech. Huggins said he's not sure if Browne will play tonight.

That's half of West Virginia's backcourt - the only real veteran position on the team - that is out or limited. Because of that, sophomore guard Eron Harris has played all but eight minutes of the first three games and junior point guard Juwan Staten has not left the floor at all, save for a few seconds against Virginia Tech.

The workload hasn't seemed to affect either, though. Harris leads the Big 12 in scoring, averaging 22.7 points after dropping in a career-high 33 against Duquesne. Staten is third in the league in scoring (20.0) after his career-high 28 against the Dukes and leads the Big 12 in assists (7.3 per game).

Huggins said Wednesday that Staten's minutes aren't a concern, at least this early in the season.

"I've had a lot of guys play a lot of minutes,'' Huggins said. "Darris Nichols almost never came out.''

The two injuries aren't the only circumstances that have caused the Mountaineers to be short-handed, though. Junior college forward Jonathan Holton's eligibility is still up in the air, but Huggins hasn't given up on adding him to the active roster. He just doesn't know when it might happen, if it does.

"Eventually we'll have to make a decision about whether it's worth it,'' Huggins said, meaning a decision on whether to play Holton or redshirt him if he does become eligible. "But we've only played three games, so we don't have to decide now.''

Tonight's game with Georgia Southern is technically the beginning of the Cancun Challenge. Two games are played on campus - the second for WVU is Saturday afternoon against Presbyterian - and then two more next week in Mexico.

Georgia Southern's two wins were lopsided ones against Toccoa Falls (Ga.) and Columbia International (S.C.), both small Christian colleges. The loss was perhaps more impressive, however, coming 81-80 in overtime at Miami.

Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickman1@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.

 


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