LAS VEGAS (AP) — After advancing to the championship game of the Las Vegas Invitational with a semifinal win over Richmond on Thanksgiving night, one would think West Virginia would be elated.
But after reviewing film the morning of the title game, the Mountaineers held a “heart-to-heart meeting,” to discuss the focus and intent for the remainder of the season.
The chat worked.
Daxter Miles, Jr. scored 14 points Friday night, as West Virginia dominated San Diego State 72-50 to claim the championship. The Mountaineers’ physical game proved to be too much for the Aztecs, who suffered their worst loss of the season.
“We’ve always felt we were a special team, but it don’t mean nothing if we don’t put the work in,” Miles said. “I believe we have some good guys and we can’t do it without each other. One game it’ll be one player getting hot, another game it will be someone else. And coach always reminds us it can be any one of us with the hot hand.”
West Virginia (6-0) outrebounded the Aztecs 42-28, as tourney MVP Devin Williams dominated the paint. The Mountaineers put themselves in position to score more often than San Diego State, with a 14-3 edge in offensive rebounds.
The Mountaineers outscored the Aztecs 30-7 in points off of turnovers.
Jevon Carter, who had 12 points in the title game, joined Miles and Williams on the all-tournament team. Williams had 10 points and nine rebounds.
“We just want to compete, we just wanted to come out and play as hard as we can play,” coach Bob Huggins said. “I knew we could compete. We’ve got great guys who are extremely competitive. We played better as a team today than we had in the prior five games.”
After six games, Huggins’ troops are outscoring the opposition by an average final of 88.6-58.1. The 30.5 scoring margin ranks fifth in the nation.
The Mountaineers — which just played four games in eight days, two in Morgantown and two in Las Vegas — will now enjoy a seven-day layoff before returning the court. After receiving votes in last week’s poll, West Virginia could creep into next week’s Top 25.
Williams said until the Mountaineers are a top five team, however, the rankings don’t mean a thing.
“That’s not really much of a discussion; being in the Top 25, that’s good because it means those are 25 teams playing hard and being elite, but at the end of the day, if we’re not top five it isn’t affecting me,” Williams said. “Tonight everybody was for each other and that’s the most important thing.”
Williams leads the nation in double-doubles with five and has 22 for his career. He said as a leader he is trying to help his team get on the same track as last year, when it made it to the NCAA Tournament, but was hammered by Kentucky 78-39 in the Sweet 16.
“We kind of got a little complacent, a little happy about making the Sweet 16 (last year),” said Williams, who leads the team with 17.5 points per game. “This is just the start and we need to keep winning. We need to take it game by game and stay focused.”
San Diego State (4-3) knocked off No. 14 California in the semifinals on Thursday, overcoming a 15-point deficit against the Bears, but couldn’t find the same magic on Friday.
The Aztecs shot just 34.2 percent (13 of 38) from the floor, including a dismal 0 for 9 from behind the 3-point line.
After combining for 30 points in Thursday’s win, San Diego State’s heroes — Skylar Spencer and Winston Shepard — managed just five points against the Mountaineers. Shepard was held scoreless for the fourth time in the six games he’s played in this season.
Jeremy Hemsley led San Diego State with 14 points.
West Virginia: This marks the second straight year the Mountaineers opened the season 6-0, as they started last season 7-0 before a one-point loss to LSU … The Mountaineers improved to 116-29 against nonconference foes in regular-season play spanning the last 12 seasons … West Virginia has made at least one 3-pointer in 529 consecutive games … The Mountaineers were 21-0 last season when holding opponents to 69 points or less and are 5-0 this season.
San Diego State: Though they lost, the Aztecs are still on a 22-9 run in games played in Las Vegas, including road games played at UNLV… With the setback, San Diego State is now 30-8 in the month of November since the 2010-11 season.
San Diego State plays at Long Beach State on Tuesday.
West Virginia plays Kennesaw State on Dec. 5.