MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – It was apparent to everyone in the WVU Coliseum Sunday Afternoon who the two best players on the floor were. Rhode Island’s Fatts Russell and West Virginia’s Derek Culver.
Russell has been the Rams’ (5-3) best player all season, coming into Sunday’s game the junior was averaging 19.6 points per game. Culver, on the other hand, has had a more up-and-down start to the year for West Virginia (7-0). None of that mattered on Sunday though, as the two led their teams in a back-and-forth contest that ended in an 86-81 WVU win.
Russell controlled the floor all game long for Rhode Island, scoring a game-high 32 points on 14-of-25 shooting. He also grabbed five steals. Culver controlled the paint, scoring 25 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Culver did all of this off the bench, as junior Gabe Osabuohien started the game alongside Oscar Tshiebwe in the forward spots.
West Virginia held a 44-33 lead at halftime but came alive in the second half to help Rhode Island close the gap. Russell scored 20 of his points after halftime. The Mountaineers held tight, however, leaning on Culver and Tshiebwe who scored 13 and 11 second-half points, respectively.
West Virginia maintained a lead throughout the second half due, in part, to 24-of-31 free-throw shooting. Culver went a perfect 7-7 from the line while Tshiebwe (5-8) and Mile McBride (4-6) also chipped in.
Rounding out the box score for the Mountaineers was Tshiebwe, who finished with 11 points and nine rebounds, Jermaine Haley with 18 points and Emmitt Matthews Jr. with 14 points.
West Virginia stays perfect on the year with the win and will next take on St. John’s on Dec. 7 at Madison Square Garden.