Losses can provide a time for reflection, and following the West Virginia University men’s basketball team’s loss at No. 3 Kansas last week, sophomore forward Derek Culver took some time to look at himself in the mirror.
Against the Jayhawks, Culver scored five points while grabbing 12 rebounds in 21 minutes of playing time. After an internal review, Culver said he knew he needed to be more physical.
Not that KU was pushing him around, Culver pointed out, but rather he said he knew he was capable of taking better advantage of the physical gifts he possesses at 6-foot-10 and 255 pounds.
“I felt like I needed to take advantage of my size and my power and my speed when it comes to playing players my size,” Culver said after Monday’s game at Oklahoma State. “Humbly speaking, a lot of players that are tall don’t have quickness — so I feel like if I use my quickness to get around them or try to go through them I feel like that will really play out in my favor.”
Against the Cowboys, Culver again grabbed 12 rebounds and scored nine points in 29 minutes on the court as West Virginia’s defense clamped down on OSU for a 55-41 win in Stillwater. Culver said he knew what to expect as far as physical play is concerned with the Big 12 portion of the schedule up on the Mountaineers.
“It was very physical, but that’s just something I have to become accustomed to dealing with in Big 12 play now,” Culver said. “I had to match their physicality during the game today. I didn’t want to do too much, because I don’t want to overexert myself and get myself in early, early foul trouble. I just try to weather the storm — match the blows where every time they hit me I try to hit them back.”
Culver did manage to stay out of serious foul trouble against the Cowboys, and on the other end of the floor he did well to draw more than a few fouls against OSU. Culver’s foul shooting, however, left a lot to be desired. Early in the season, the sophomore was one of West Virginia’s safer bets at the foul line, but on Monday Culver made just 3 of 10 attempts.
“Who knows?” Culver asked rhetorically when asked about his foul shooting trouble. “I just have to go back to the drawing board and keep shooting free throw after free throw. I don’t know, I feel like I was sped up today. I wasn’t really in my groove and I couldn’t get out of my head today, dwelling on things I shouldn’t be dwelling on.”
Despite his scoring being down in recent games, Culver has found other ways to help the West Virginia offense. Grabbing rebounds is one way, but the Youngstown, Ohio, native is also one of the better passing big men in the Big 12, if not the country. Against Oklahoma State, Culver had two assists — including one that was particularly pleasing to the eye which ended in a made 3-pointer by former South Charleston High standout Brandon Knapper.
“My scoring really wasn’t going well today, but I was fine with that,” Culver said. “I was finding teammates and they were hitting 3s, back cuts. Me being able to find them and get them to score, that made me happy because all in all that gives us points.”