MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Very few teams have been able to slow down West Virginia forward Derek Culver this season. The junior from Youngstown, Ohio will set career-highs in scoring (14.7 ppg) and rebounding (10.1 rpg) this season and is leading the Big 12 conference with 11 double-doubles.
He is a Big 12 Player of the Year candidate according to WVU coach Bob Huggins and has been held under 10 points just four times this season. At 6-foot-10 and 255 pounds, Huggins said there are few players in the entire country that can match Culver’s physicality down low.
“I don’t think there’s anybody in college basketball, other than maybe the big kid at Illinois [Kofi Cockburn], that could move Derek if Derek doesn’t want to get moved,” Huggins said. “Derek is really hard to stop when he catches the ball with two feet in the paint.”
Despite Culver’s dominance this season, he scored just nine points on 0 of 3 shooting when the No. 6 Mountaineers fell at home to No. 3 Baylor on Tuesday. Knowing he probably did not have anyone to match up with Culver in the paint, Baylor coach Scott Drew took. different approach to shut him down.
Following the 94-89 overtime loss, Huggins explained that instead of trying to guard Culver, Baylor instead played more aggressive defense on WVU’s ball handlers, which made it tougher for them to get Culver the ball.
“[Culver] chased the ball too much because he wasn’t getting it because [Baylor] put really, really good ball pressure on our guys,” Huggins explained. “So our guys are fighting the ball pressure and when they’re fighting the ball pressure they’re not really looking to throw it to Derek. And so Derek chases it, which is human nature.”
Instead of receiving the ball in the paint like he normally would, Culver had to come out to the top of the key or the 3-point line.
“He’s comfortable out there, he just doesn’t score out there,” Huggins said.
Junior guard Sean McNeil said he did not even realize how effective Baylor’s plan was until he looked at the box score and was that Culver finished with only three shot attempts.
“I think Derek’s just kind of presented himself as a threat,” McNeil said. “I think Baylor knew that going in and they wanted to be as aggressive as they can with him. We’ve definitely got to get him the ball more.”
Tuesday was the first game all season in which Culver did not make a field goal and three attempts was also a season-low.