ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)—Da’Sean Butler wouldn’t let West Virginia be the next ranked team to lose to unheralded Portland.
Butler tied his season high of 26 points to lead No. 8 West Virginia to the 76 Classic championship with a 84-66 victory over Portland on Sunday night. Butler, who made 10 of 16 shots and grabbed six rebounds, was the tournament’s most outstanding player.
“Everybody was way mentally tougher than I thought they would be,” Butler said, “as far as understanding the matchups and not going, ‘Oh, wow, I’m guarding the best player’ or saying, ‘How come I’m not getting any shots?’ We came together as a team more, as opposed to being individuals just worrying about themselves.”
Portland reached the tournament final by routing UCLA on Thursday night and beating No. 22 Minnesota on Friday night.
Kevin Jones added a season-best 17 points for the Mountaineers (5-0), who won their first tournament since 2001. Devin Ebanks came off the bench to score 14 points.
“I think this game gives us a big confidence boost,” Jones said. “It shows we can hang with the good teams in the country.”
Nik Raivio scored 15 points for the Pilots (5-1). T.J. Campbell added 12 points and five assists while Jared Stohl and Kramer Knutson scored 11 points apiece.
“We want to go to a place where we can compete and beat teams like that,” Portland coach Eric Reveno said of West Virginia. “We’ve got a neat team, a nice team. I want this team to be a special team.”
Portland led 14-13 when West Virginia used a 15-4 surge to move ahead 28-18 with five minutes left in the first half. Jones scored six points during the run with Butler adding five.
“We hit a few shots and then picked up our defensive intensity,” Butler said. “When I saw that, it made me want to play harder.”
The Mountaineers outrebounded the Pilots in the first half 26-10 in building a 39-25 halftime advantage.
“We got crushed on the boards and didn’t give ourselves a chance,” Reveno said. “They had a ton of offensive boards in the first half. If we could’ve kept it close and maybe tried to get aggressive in the second half, it might’ve been a different story.”
West Virginia led in the second half by as many as 22 points. Portland got no closer than 10.
“The story of our team is versatility,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “If nothing else, it shows our guys that we can win and not have to shoot well.”