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Derek Culver impresses in conference opener

West Virginia (8-5) opened conference play at home with a 62-59 loss to No. 11 Texas Tech. The Red Raiders (12-1) opened the second half on an 11-0 run to take a 31-22 lead before Derek Culver ended the run with a pair of free throws four minutes into the half.

The game may not have gone West Virginia’s way, but freshman Derek Culver gave Mountaineer fans something to be excited about. Coming off of the bench, Culver finished with 12 points and 8 rebounds. He was just two rebounds shy of his second consecutive double-double.

“I felt really good, I feel like my teammates did a lot of good things to put me in position to score. I feel like I did alright though in my first Big 12 game”, Culver said. “As long as I bring energy then I’ll be able to find comfort in playing.”

Culver is quickly proving to people why he was worth the wait. For those who don’t know, Culver was supposed to be a part of last year’s freshman class as a four-star forward, but he attended prep school for a year at Brewster Academy.

After the game, Culver had something to say about the struggles at the free throw line (18-32) for the Mountaineers.

“That stat right there shows you how talented we are and how skilled we are at all positions. With those stats it was only a one possession game, now imagine if we make those free throws and cut the turnovers in half.”

He finished 3-4 from the field and 6-9 from the free throw line. One stat that really stands out is his plus/minus. Culver played 28 minutes and the Mountaineers were +14 with him on the floor. Lamont West (+4) and Beetle Bolden (+2) were the only other players to finish with a positive plus/minus.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard had some encouraging words for the young big man. “Future pro, the next great big at this school… if he lets [Huggins] coach him.”

What I was most impressed by was something Culver did with about six minutes left in the game. He got the ball at the high post, backed his man down, drew the double team, and then found Lamont West cutting on the baseline for an easy dunk. Just the way he drew the double team and then easily passed out of it was something you don’t usually see out of a true freshman. It’s very encouraging when you have a big man that has good vision and can distribute from inside.

Next up for the Mountaineers is a date in Austin on Saturday against the Texas Longhorns (8-4). The game is set to tip at 9:00 pm on ESPN2.

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