The Mountaineers didn’t get much offensive production from their post players in Wednesday’s season-opening win over South Dakota State, but a day later in the semifinal round of the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic, West Virginia’s big men were too big and too strong for VCU.
Derek Culver and Oscar Tsheibwe muscled past the Rams for a combined 34 points and 31 rebounds in leading WVU to a 78-66 victory in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Thursday afternoon.
With the win, West Virginia advanced to Friday’s Crossover Classic championship game, where it will face Western Kentucky at 1:30 p.m. The Hilltoppers defeated Memphis, 75-69, in their semifinal.
WVU started Thursday’s game like it was going to run away to a blowout.
Culver, who scored 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the first 20 minutes alone, led West Virginia to a 13-0 advantage right out of the gate. VCU didn’t score a point until the game was over seven minutes old, and it didn’t manage a field goal on its own (it had one via a goaltend) until the 10:51 mark.
But the Rams slapped on a fullcourt press that forced the Mountaineers into seven first half turnovers, converting those into nine points.
With extra possessions, Virginia Commonwealth came storming back and cut WVU’s lead to just two, 29-27, with 4:56 left in the opening half. Culver and Tshiebwe stemmed the tide, though, guiding the Mountaineers on a 13-6 run the rest of the half, allowing them to take a 42-33 lead into the locker room at the break.
VCU’s defense caused West Virginia further problems early in the second half, and the Rams cut the WVU lead to 43-40 in the period’s first three and a half minutes.
Sean McNeil and Taz Sherman got the Mountaineers’ second half offense going, scoring 11 points between them as part of a 13-2 West Virginia run that left WVU on top 56-42.
After that, much of the work was again done by Culver and Tshiebwe.
Culver recorded the 17th double-double of his career, as the junior forward powered his way to 23 points and 15 rebounds. Tshiebwe had a double-double himself with 11 points and 16 rebounds.
McNeil set his WVU career high on Wednesday night with 16 points, and he equaled that on Thursday. Deuce McBride also reached double figures in the scoring department with 12 points for WVU.
Virginia Commonwealth was led by Nah’Shon Hyland, who had 13 points.