MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Oscar Tshiebwe recorded his second career double-double in the fourth game of his West Virginia career, scoring 21 points and grabbing 10 rebounds to lead the Mountaineers (4-0) to a nice 69-44 win over Boston University (2-3) in the preliminary round of the Cancun Challenge.
Tshiebwe finally flashed his skills in front of the home crowd after combing for nine points in his previous two games at WVU Coliseum. The freshman power forward dominated Pitt for 20 points and 17 rebounds at the Petersen Events Center, but had yet to find his footing at home.
Tshiebwe said the nerves of playing in front of a big crowd were not the issue in the two games in which he struggled.
“I was not nervous. College basketball is not easy,” Tshiebwe said. “It was a little bit tough coming to college and studying the game. I just want to figure out college basketball.”
He came out hot in the second half, scoring eight of West Virginia’s first 12 points.
“Coach was yelling at me,” Tshiebwe. “It was good. I came out with energy and played defense. That’s why when we came out in the second half, I came out so strong.”
West Virginia needed Tshiebwe to dominate in the paint with Derek Culver limited by foul trouble. Culver scored 10 points, but only played 15 minutes on account of his four fouls. The sophomore forward has 14 fouls in West Virginia’s four games, severely undercutting his ability to take control on any given night.
Culver says that many of his fouls have been the result of learning how to play alongside Tshiebwe. Culver strictly defended the post last season, but now he’s frequently chasing smaller players around with Tshiebwe providing defense inside.
“I feel like this year I don’t really guard big men, I guard all wings,” Culver said. “The transition from me guarding bigs to me guarding guards is something I have to get used to. I feel like it’s something I have to work on. But it’s not like I can’t guard them. I can stay in front of them. But the physicality I can use on a big man, I can’t use on a guard.
“Therefore I have to watch what I do. Sometimes I let that slip my mind, and that’s when I pick up the cheap ones.”
WVU coach Bob Huggins also needs to see the duo get more comfortable with one another on the offensive end.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Huggins said. “They’re still getting in each other’s way. We need to make sure we can get each of them a chance to get isolated. If they’re both isolated, they’re going to score.”
West Virginia’s size advantage over the Terriers paid off on a night where the Mountaineers couldn’t buy a three-pointer. WVU guards had plenty of open looks, but shot only 11.1 percent (2 of 18) outside the arc.
“I don’t think a bunch could get many better shots than what they’ve gotten,” Huggins said of his team, which is shooting 30.2 percent from three-point range.
The Mountaineers made up for it with plenty of easy buckets, scoring 48 points in the paint and 25 points off of 22 Terrier turnovers. West Virginia scored the first 11 points of the game and jumped out to a 23-5 lead in the opening minutes of the first half.
West Virginia heads south of the border — as in Mexico, not Virginia — to face Northern Iowa in the semifinals of the Cancun Challenge on Tuesday.
The always tough Panthers are off to a 6-0 start, though the Mountaineers will be the first high-major team they face this season.