MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Two of the most talented players on West Virginia’s roster this season, freshman Oscar Tshiebwe and sophomore Derek Culver, do not know how to play with one another.
They are both big forwards who want to play in the low post and protect the paint, and they are both good at that. The problem, however, is that neither of them has ever played with another big man that can do what they do, and so they both are not sure how they fit together just yet.
“I’m still learning, it’s still kind of, I don’t want to say strange, but it’s different,” Culver said Friday night. “I kind of have to give my down-low post role to Oscar because that what he does and I have to play more on the wing.”
“We’re learning how to play me and him in the game (together),” Tshiebwe said. “He wants to post up, I want to post up. We’ve got to know how we play, if he’s down there (in the post) I’ve got to be out to try and catch the ball, we’re getting to know each other and how to play with each other.”
Friday night’s win over the Boston University Terriers was the first time this season when both players scored in double-digits in the same game. Previously it seemed like whenever one would have a good game, the other would struggle.
When the 6-foot-10 Culver scored 16 points against Akron, Tshiebwe only had five. When the 6-foot-9 Tshiebwe had a 20 point, 17 rebound game against Pitt, Culver had only four points. Even when Culver was benched for the first half of Monday’s game against Northern Colorado, he finished with 13 points and Tshiebwe scored only four.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do, they’re still getting in each other’s way,” head coach Bob Huggins said. “We’ve got to make sure we can get each of them a chance to get isolated. If they’re both isolate they’re going to score or have a great chance to.”
Huggins wants to have two bigs on the floor at all times. There are four big men he rotates into games: Culver, Tshiebwe, Logan Routt and the recently eligible Gabe Osabuohien. Both Huggins and the players are aware of how effective the rotation could be.
“I feel like it’s hard for any team to match up with us because it doesn’t matter what lineup, there’s always going to be a match-up problem for someone,” Routt said. “It doesn’t matter who’s in the game for us, there’s always going to be at least one person who has an advantage on a defender.”
“With me and (Culver) in the game, nobody can rebound over us,” Tshiebwe said. “That’s why we play me and him, it’s going to be so hard for teams to stop us.”
Huggins said all the bigs need to be comfortable playing with one another so they can be ready for anything.
“How do I know whether Derek’s going to get in foul trouble or how do I know whether Logan’s going to twist his ankle, how do I know one of them’s not going to show up and not feel like playing today?”
Despite how things are right now, both Tshiebwe and Culver are confident they will figure out how to play together given enough time.
Culver: “I feel like things will go pretty well toward the middle of the season, end of the year.”
Tshiebwe: “I feel like we’re going to be good by the time we start Big 12 play.”