The 2019-20 West Virginia basketball team is largely built around two areas, rebounding and defense. Through the season’s first 15 games, both have been strengths of the No 12. Mountaineers.
The defense has been a team effort, with role players like Chase Harler and Gabe Osabuohien providing valuable minutes guarding other teams’ best players. WVU’s rebound, on the other hand, has mostly been a two-man show. Big men Oscar Tshiebwe and Derek Culver have dominated the glass throughout the season thus far.
They are the two best rebounders in the Big 12 this season with Tshiebwe at one (147 rebounds, 9.8 per game) and Culver not far behind at two (144, 9.6). They are big reasons why WVU leads the conference in total rebounds (634, 42.3 per game), offensive rebounds (215, 14.3) and rebounding margin (8.2). West Virginia is also tied for fifth in the entire nation in rebound per game (42.3) and is fourth in offensive rebounds per game (14.3).
The duo’s success on the boards comes as no surprise to WVU head Bob Huggins.
“It should happen all the time,” Huggins said following the team’s most recent victory over Texas Tech Saturday. “When you look at it we have at least two of the top five rebounders in the league, maybe two of the top three rebounders in the league. They should rebound it. They’re both talented rebounders, they both have good hands, they’re both big and tall and wide, they should rebound it.”
A sophomore, the 6-foot-10 Culver is no stranger to finding success rebounding the ball. Last season as a true freshman he led the Big 12 in rebounding during conference play (10.9 rebounds per game) adding the 6-foot-9 freshman Tshiebwe has only helped him out.
Seven times this season WVU has out-rebounded its opponent by double-digits, and the Mountaineers have only been out-rebounded three times this season, but never by more than seven.
Of the nine best rebounding performances by Big 12 players this season, seven of them belong to either Tshiebwe or Culver. Tshiebwe has had single-game highs of 18, 17, 17 and 17 while Culver has had games of 18, 16 and 15 rebounds.
Tshiebwe and Culver’s combined 19.4 rebounds per game far out-paces any other duo in the conference.
Baylor’s Freddie Gillespie (9.2), TCU’s Kevin Samuel (8.9) and Kansas’s Udoka Azubuike (8.9) round out the league top-5 at numbers three through five, respectively, but none of them have a rebounding partner like Culver and Tshiebwe have in each other. The only other team with two players in the top ten in rebounding is TCU Desmond Bane (seven) at nine. Even then their combined 15.9 rebounds are still 3.5 less than what Culver and Tshiebwe put up.
West Virginia’s next game is against Samuel and the Horned Frogs on Tuesday night in the WVU Coliseum. The teams will tip-off at 9 p.m.