Texas Tech sophomore Jarrett Culver sat down after speaking to reporters in a hushed Texas Tech locker room. He broke out the shredder and cut the tape on his ankles, slowly removing it.
He stared at the ground for a few moments.
Then he reached back, grabbed his phone and scrolled through it for a bit. He sighed, put the phone back in the locker and stared at the ground again. Then he sat back and stared at the wall, the entire time saying nothing.
There's a lot about Culver's Final Four experience that's going to play back in his mind, especially Monday's 85-77 overtime loss to Virginia in the national championship game.
Culver, who has shot up NBA draft boards thanks to his tantalizing talent, had a memorable night to forget. He finished with 15 points on just 5-for-22 shooting, including 0-for-6 from three-point range. That followed a 10-point, 3-for-12 performance against Michigan State in the semifinals. But amid the disappointment, Culver could see a night like Monday for the opportunity it also gives as kindling, especially since Culver may be headed to the NBA sooner than later.
"Moments like this it drives you," Culver said. "I know last year when we lost to Villanova it drove me all offseason just to get better and try to win a national championship and we're falling short to the national championship. I know it's going to drive me to try to do great things."
Another potential lottery pick, Virginia's De'Andre Hunter, was one of the main reasons Culver struggled. Hunter, also a wiry, athletic player, guarded Culver most of the game and limited his effectiveness all around the floor.
There was one moment when Culver got the better of Hunter. With the clock ticking inside of a minute in regulation, Culver took a dribble to his right and pirouetted in the lane with the grace of a ballet dancer around Hunter, creating enough separation for a layup and giving Texas Tech a 66-65 lead with 35.1 seconds remaining. Fans may have been wondering: Where was that all night?
Following two free throws from Norense Odiase, Hunter hit a tying three from Ty Jerome, a sequence Culver may replay in his head more than any missed shot.
"It was on me. I kind of overhelped," Culver said. "I knew he was down three, I stepped over too much. [Jerome] made a good pass to a great shooter."
Culver couldn't rescue Texas Tech, missing a three-pointer with five seconds remaining while Virginia's Braxton Key blocked a last-second shot off an inbounds play.
"He's a tough player," Odiase said. "He might take it hard, but he'll fuel it and turn it into what makes him better. He'll have a lot of opportunities to make big plays on big stages. I'm not worried about Jarrett."
Added Kyler Edwards: "He could've missed all his shots but we still got his back."
He didn't miss all his shots, but it might have felt that way.