SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - The hot hand that Casey Mitchell had on Friday in the second round of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off turned into a full-blown fever in the opening minutes of Sunday night's championship game.
The problem was, it wasn't infectious to the rest of the team.
Mitchell poured in a game-high 27 points, but no other West Virginia player reached double figures. That lack of support proved critical down the stretch and enabled Minnesota to hold on for a thrilling 74-70 victory.
Other than a 3-pointer by Kevin Jones, Mitchell was the only West Virginia player to make a shot from the field in the final eight minutes of the game.
So with the Golden Gophers leading 73-70 in the final seconds, there was no question who was going to take the potential game-tying 3-pointer for the Mountaineers. Minnesota knew it as well, and Al Nolen had skin-tight coverage on Mitchell's shot, which bounced long off the rim.
Gerald Armelin sank a free throw with 4.5 seconds left to make it a four-point lead.
"Casey Mitchell was having a field day," Minnesota coach Tubby Smith said. "You knew he was going to be their go-to guy at the end. Al did a good job challenging the shot."
Nolen also led the Gophers in scoring with 17 points, including 11-of-12 from the free-throw line. Tournament most valuable player Trevor Mbakwe added 16 points and seven rebounds for the Gophers (5-0).
Blake Hoffarber scored 12 points, all in the second half. His 3-pointer with approximately a minute to play broke a 70-all tie and gave Minnesota the 73-70 it held until the final seconds.
Despite his lofty point total, it was a frustrating game for Mitchell, who scored 16 of the Mountaineers' first 20 points but was unable to hit the key shot at the end.
"It took a while for some of the other players to get into the game," Mitchell said. "By that time, [Minnesota] had momentum. I thought our effort was great at the end, but we waited too late.