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Culver sparks WVU over Rams

Sophomore forward turns in double-double off the bench in 86-81 victory over Rhode Island

MORGANTOWN (AP) — Revenge. That was the word used by West Virginia forward Emmitt Matthews Jr. to describe their win over Rhode Island Sunday afternoon after losing to them last year.

The Mountaineers needed a big night from Derek Culver to escape another loss from Rhode Island after the Mountaineers let an 11-point halftime lead slip away.

Culver came off the bench to score a career-high 25 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead West Virginia to an 86-81 victory over Rhode Island on Sunday.

“I like coming off the bench,” Culver said. “I feel more energized and ready to go.”

It certainly showed. Culver was the catalyst in the Mountaineers 20-6 run in the first half, scoring eight of those points, that gave them some breathing room before halftime.

Rhode Island head coach, David Cox, said Culver’s game was unexpected. “I just didn’t expect him to be that good and he was really, really good today,” Cox said.

Jermaine Haley added 18 points, Emmitt Matthews Jr. scored 14 and Oscar Tshiebwe had 11 points and nine rebounds for the Mountaineers (7-0).

West Virginia coach Bob Huggins heard Culver liked coming off the bench. “Good. I’ll sit him the next game,” Huggins said.

The move to bring him off the bench was something Huggins felt gave them the best chance to win.

“I thought Derek was really good,” Huggins said. “I thought Derek came off the bench with more energy than anybody we had.”

Fatts Russell scored 20 of his season-high 32 points in the first half for the Rams (5-3). Cyril Langevine added 14 points and Tyrese Martin scored 10.

Rhode Island shot 60% (18 of 30) from the floor after halftime and stormed back from an 11-point deficit to tie the game 60-60 on a layup by Jeff Dowtin with 9:26 left. But the Rams never retook the lead.

Tshiebwe hit a jumper and a three-point play a minute apart and later made another free throw for a 73-66 lead with 5:09 remaining.

Rhode Island had the chance to tie the score, but a pass went out of bounds off Russell’s hands with four seconds left and West Virginia survived.

Jordan McCabe hit two free throws with 3.3 seconds left for the final margin.

UP NEXT

Rhode Island: Heads home to host Providence on Friday night.

West Virginia: Takes on St. John’s in Madison Square Garden on Saturday at noon.