The Mountaineers hung on to beat Northern Colorado, and they’re 3-0 to open the regular season for the first time since 2016.
It all happened despite an unforeseen storyline that developed during the game.
Sophomore forward Derek Culver didn’t play at all in the first half, and it wasn’t until the 15:40-mark in the second half that he checked in for the first time.
“I decided not to play him,” said head coach Bob Huggins.
The longtime coach of the Mountaineers didn’t offer much more of an explanation as to why Culver sat on the bench, but it’s apparent that Huggins is again trying to send the player a message.
“We’re gonna do right, you know? We’re gonna do right,” Huggins said. “We’re gonna all be on the same page.”
This isn’t the first time Huggins has benched Culver for a half: a year ago in the second round of the CBI, Culver sat the entire opening period before checking in after halftime. He logged 11 points in 18 minutes, but the Mountaineers still lost to Coastal Carolina, 109-91.
In Monday’s 69-61 victory over Northern Colorado, Culver made an impact as the game nearly slipped from the Mountaineers’ grasp.
The sophomore racked up a quick 13 points in 11 minutes, going 7-8 from the free throw line. Ten of those points came after the Bears knotted the score at 54 with 6:18 to play.
“Obviously, he played pretty well in the second half,” Huggins said. “I thought he was pretty strong with the ball.”
Teammates like junior guard Taz Sherman took notice of Culver’s efforts with the game on the line.
“He brings a certain energy. He brings that certain ‘wolfness,’” Sherman said. “Once he’s in the game, you feel his presence — offensively, defensively, whatever, you feel that Derek Culver is there.
Sherman added: “He came into the second half cold. He came aggressive. He was just being DC.”