Derek Culver imposed his will on VCU as his 15th-ranked West Virginia men’s hoops squad powered over the Rams 78-66 in the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic on Thanksgiving Day.
Culver set the tone early, scoring West Virginia’s first six points of the contest. One stat from the first half may surprise Mountaineer fans: five of Culver’s 15 first-half points came at the free throw line without missing a single shot. He finished with 23 points and 15 rebounds, his first double-double of the season.
At half, he led all scorers, while tying a struggling Oscar Tshiebwe with eight rebounds. He finished strong, though, with an 11-point, 16-rebound double-double.
Culver’s strong start gave West Virginia an early advantage with a 13-0 run out of the gate. Nah’Shon Hyland scored first for the Rams at the line at the 13:18 mark, but it wasn’t for another two and a half minutes that he would score VCU’s first field goal.
Around that point, the Rams turned up the pressure with a full-court press. West Virginia took some time figuring out how to beat it, which allowed VCU to get within a bucket after an 18-8 run.
Tshiebwe’s offensive game was slow to get off the floor. He took six points to the locker room at half, but missed a total of four layups in the process. Deuce McBride and Sean McNeil each chipped in eight points before halftime.
VCU took advantage of an ice-cold West Virginia offense in the opening minutes of the second half with a 5-0 run. That got the Rams within four points before Culver broke the drought from the free throw line.
The foul shot didn’t break the cold spell, however. West Virginia missed its first seven field goals of the half before Taz Sherman sunk a long two-point jumper.
That sparked an improvement in WVU’s scoring. The Mountaineers found a rhythm in the second half and sunk 45.9 percent of their shots — but the Rams also found a rhythm, scoring 33 second-half points to WVU’s 36.
The VCU press still proved to be a thorn in WVU’s side in the second half, forcing 14 Mountaineer turnovers in the half — the greater part of its 21 total giveaways.
WVU’s frontcourt was just too much for VCU, though, as they powered and rebounded their squad to the victory.
The victory moves West Virginia to 2-0 on the season and advances it to the finals of the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic. They face Western Kentucky Friday at 1:30 p.m. ET.