Contributors, Justin Jackson, Men's Basketball, Sports, WVU Sports

COLUMN: WVU needs Derek Culver to be Derek Culver

Derek Culver ended his first half Friday night on the bench sitting in frustration and jabbing his index finger into his head, his way of telling himself he needed to play smarter.

If the Mountaineers are going to make any type of serious run in this NCAA tournament, having a smarter Culver wouldn’t hurt.

A better Culver would be key, too.

“It obviously helps a ton when you have a guy like Derek, who can, one, create his own shot, and, two, go rebound a missed shot,” WVU guard Deuce McBride said. “It really makes the defense suck in and makes our job a lot easier.”

That’s exactly what the Mountaineers got in the second half from the young 6-foot-10 forward from Youngstown, Ohio.

After being held to 0 for 4 shooting and having two of his shots blocked right back at him, Culver was the man down low the Mountaineers needed.

He finished with 12 points and seven rebounds in the third-seeded Mountaineers 84-67 victory against Morehead State in the first round inside Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium.

“I give a lot of credit to Derek for doing his job,” McBride said. “He had a rough first half, but he stayed positive and kept at it.”

As much as McBride and his fellow WVU guards and their outside shooting have become a story for the Mountaineers, WVU needs Culver to establish himself as the story.

That wasn’t exactly the case Friday.

McBride was awesome, finishing with 30 points and WVU connected on nine critical 3-pointers.

WVU’s outside shooting was lethal and McBride didn’t miss his first shot of the game until 1:34 remained in the first half.

Culver’s final totals wasn’t exactly a poor showing.

By Derek Culver standards, though, it wasn’t his best effort.

Here’s the thing, though, it takes six wins to be crowned NCAA champ, and it’s just unreal to ask McBride to go out and keep scoring 30 points for another four or five games.

He needs Culver to be Culver.

West Virginia (19-9) needs Culver to be Culver.

“When Derek gets it going, we’re pretty good,” was the way WVU head coach Bob Huggins put it.

Not just rebounding the ball. Not just being a big guy inside taking up space and challenging shots.

Culver’s got to be the guy he was for those moments in the second half, when he dominated in the paint and scored through contact.

The key moment of the game saw McBride and Culver teaming up to put the game out of reach.

WVU led, 49-45, when McBride went coast-to-coast off a rebound and was fouled on a Flagrant 1.

He made both free throws to push the lead to 53-45, then made two more free throws on the ensuing possession.

Culver got into the act by scoring off an offensive rebound and he then powered his way through the paint for another bucket.

With 10 minutes left, WVU had basically taken away any upset hopes the Eagles had with a 59-48 lead.

Down the stretch, McBride hit another three and Culver scored on a baby hook.

That smarter Culver had come to play in the second half.

“I think he was trying too hard and he wanted to play well in his first NCAA tournament game,” Huggins said. “I think they were all like that, but when Derek finally got it going and we could throw it close, it made all the difference.”

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