Culver Dominates Off The Bench In WVU’s Win Over URI
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia sophomore Derek Culver may not have been on the floor for the start of Sunday’s game, but he was certainly a major factor by the finish.
It was the second time in WVU’s seven games this year that Culver was on the bench at the tipoff. The other was against Northern Colorado a couple weeks ago when he was reportedly tardy for a shoot around.
This time West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins indicated the decision was based more on rotation.
“We thought it was the best thing to do for this game,” explained WVU’s veteran coach referring his substitution patterns for his big men. “It’s hard to play Gabe (Osabuohien) and Logan (Routt) at the same time. We just don’t get any offense, and we’re not as effective around the basket defensively.”
Culver entered Sunday’s contest at the first media timeout and immediately went to work. He had 12 points and seven rebounds by halftime, and finished with a double-double, which included a career-high 25 points to go along with 11 rebounds in helping the Mountaineers hang on for an 86-81 victory over the Rams.
“He played well,” said Huggins of Culver, as West Virginia improved to 7-0 on the season. “He’s able to handle a lot of physical play because he’s a big, strong guy. We ended up going to him more than we probably wanted to initially, and then he didn’t do a very good job of throwing out of doubles, which we have to spend some time with.”
The Mountaineers’ other prominent big man, Oscar Tshiebwe, added 11 points and nine rebounds.
“Any guy you can throw it to two or three feet from the hoop and can put it in the basket is a big piece on the team,” noted WVU senior guard Jermaine Haley, who scored 18 points himself. “Oscar can do the same thing, but D.C. had a great game today. Each game it’s one or the other, or sometimes both. They are doing a good job of working with each other. Having both those guys in there rebounding and being able to throw it to them and having them score is great.”
Culver, who was 9-of-17 from the floor and 7-of-7 from the free throw line against URI, is also trying to mentor the young Tshiebwe, the talented true freshman from the Congo who has only played a few years of organized basketball.
“I’m telling him constantly, constantly, constantly, keep going, they’re going to break, the wear and tear,” said Culver of his in-game advice to Tshiebwe. “It was the simple fact that he needs to stay aggressive.
“I’m trying to show him the ropes,” added the 6-foot-10, 256-pounder from Youngstown, Ohio. “I wish someone had done that for me last year, because I kind of got thrown into the fire.”
After West Virginia’s many struggles last season in stumbling to a 15-21 record, this year’s undefeated Mountaineers feel they are on an entirely different path.
“We just want everything to play out as it’s supposed to,” said Culver. “We know the work we’ve been putting in, from the bigs to the guards to the coaching staff, even the film staff and the managers; everyone has bought in.
“We started off as one little snowball, and now we’re huge,” he concluded. “We’re just rolling and rolling.”