Men's Basketball, WVU Sports

NOTEBOOK: Derek Culver battled illness and gutted out 30 minutes in loss against Oklahoma State

MORGANTOWN — When Derek Culver’s body could give no more during the first half Thursday, West Virginia’s 6-foot-10 forward just didn’t go take a seat on the bench.

He laid on the ground with a towel over his face, probably wondering why his body would fall ill at a time like this.

Playing with a bad cold that drained him of most of his energy, Culver gutted out 30 minutes and finished with 11 points and nine rebounds during the Mountaineers’ 72-69 loss against Oklahoma State in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament.

“He obviously wasn’t feeling like himself,” WVU point guard Deuce McBride said. “He’s a warrior. He’s one of our toughest guys on the team. He’s one of our leaders.

“Thankfully he was able to step on the court today with some of the things he was going through off the court and feeling sick. He’s going to keep battling through and he’ll battle with us, always.”

After receiving an IV at the half, Culver did have an offensive burst that helped the Mountaineers (18-9) run out to a 49-41 midway through the second half.

That included a steal and a drive from beyond half court that he finished with a nice layup, as well as a dunk after stealing the ball from Avery Anderson in the corner.

Culver was held scoreless over the final 13 minutes, though.

“Well, I think first and foremost, Derek showed a lot of courage,” WVU head coach Bob Huggins said. “He was having a hard time walking, much less running up and down the floor.”

The final possession

WVU trailed, 72-69, when Huggins called his final timeout with 16.7 seconds remaining.

Coming out of that timeout, Huggins said he was frantically trying to get McBride’s attention to get him to look over at Sean McNeil, rather than pass the ball to Taz Sherman.

“We had their defense really shifting to Taz’s side, Huggins said. “I was trying to get Deuce to hear me to take it to Taz and then swing it back to Sean.

“He thought Taz was open. Taz thought he was open. We weren’t supposed to throw it to Taz.”

Sherman put up a 3-point shot with 6.7 seconds left, but the ball was blocked by Oklahoma State’s Isaac Likekele.

The ball landed in Culver’s hands and he found McNeil for another 3-point shot, but McNeil saw Bryce Williams flying in from the side and had to hesitate for just a second.

It was a second the Mountaineers did not have, as the final buzzer went off before McNeil could get the shot off.

“It just ended up being a second, or less, late,” Huggins said. “I mean, we got what we wanted.”

News and notes

** WVU fell to 8-8 all-time in Big 12 Tournament play and this was the fourth time the Mountaineers finished 0-1 in the tournament.

It’s also the first season since 2015 the Mountaineers didn’t at least reach the semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament.

** The Cowboys finished with 40 points in the paint, giving them 138 over their three games against WVU this season.

** Coming off a career-high 31 points against WVU last Saturday, Avery Anderson scored 17 on Thursday, with 15 coming in the second half.

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