West Virginia’s Culver Facing Gauntlet of Physical Play
MORGANTOWN, W.Va — Basketball is supposed to be a non-contact sport but don’t tell that to Derek Culver, West Virginia’s freshman center of attention.
The way opponents are treating him he ought to be outfitted by football equipment manager Dan Nehlen, not basketball’s Steve Beier.
He has been hacked, held, elbowed, bumped, belted.
There are mugging victims who don’t ache as much as he has to after a normal game.
“If this continues I don’t know if Derek will have any arms left,” coach Bob Huggins said after WVU lost its latest game, 65-51, to Kansas State. “He competed his butt off.”
He does every time he hits the floor … and, it seems, he hits the floor often from the way he’s treated.
He’s WVU’s only inside threat on a team that hasn’t scored more than 53 points in four games now, and there is no outside threat, so defenses have come to treat Culver like a punching bag.
“We had no answer for Culver other than to keep putting guys in to foul him,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber admitted. “He’s just a man. He plays hard. For their future, he’s going to be someone who’s really tough to deal with. I dread it.”
Against Kansas State, Culver shot eight of WVU’s 15 free throws.
And it wasn’t accidental that Culver got pounded like that. Lamont West was the only other Mountaineer to shoot free throws in the game.
Put another way, Kansas State shot only nine free throws, so this was not a whistle-happy bunch. Only five players in the entire game went to the free throw line.
And get this. For the year, Culver has shot 105 free throws, which is one fewer than the now departed Esa Ahmad, even though Culver missed the season’s first 10 games.
In Big 12 play, Culver has taken 94 free throws while playing 356 minutes. Beetle Bolden, Lamont West and Esa Ahmad have taken just 114 in 688 minutes, almost double the time on the court.
Considering Culver still is not proficient shooting free throws, hitting just 57.1 percent from the line as compared with 47 percent from the field, it makes sense to hack him. If he takes 100 shots and is fouled on every one, he figures to score just 57 points, while on 100 field goal attempts where he’s allowed to get the shot off, he will score 94 points.
The double teams are causing him problems because of his inexperience. His rebounding has gotten him more shots than when the Mountaineers feed him in the post, allowing players to drop down and double on him, which started with the Kansas game.
“We didn’t have any time to work on the double teams. Kansas did it. We had only one day before we played Kansas State. He’ll figure it out. You have to quarter to the middle. If you do it to the baseline, there is no one to pass it to,” Huggins said.
“It’s kind of frustrating, but it kind of makes me feel good because people are respecting my game now,” Culver said of the double teams he’s facing. “On the flip side, it’s annoying because I can’t get the ball to my teammates like I want to.”
In the end, it’s up to the officials to recognize what’s going on and protect him.
Yes, they are calling fouls but when you start hearing coaches say, “We had no answer for Culver other than to keep putting guys in to foul him,” as Weber did, you have understand that it might be something more than incidental contact.