LAS VEGAS —While West Virginia and Richmond failed to match their typical high-scoring outputs, Devin Williams didn’t experience a falloff.
The big forward scored 23 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead the Mountaineers to a 67-59 victory on Thursday in the semifinals of the Las Vegas Invitational.
Williams powered to the rim on the game’s opening possession, the start to a 9-of-11 shooting night from the floor and his fifth double-double to open the season.
“The turning point was every time we threw it to Devin Williams,” Huggins said. “He was just great, scoring for us. And when we missed, he was rebounding. He was terrific.”
West Virginia (5-0) came in averaging 98.3 points while Richmond (3-2) had been scoring at a clip of 90.8 per game before both struggled to make shots inside Orleans Arena. Jevon Carter was 3-of-12 from floor in scoring 13 points for the Mountaineers, who made only 2-of-13 from 3-point range as a team.
Terry Allen scored 20 to pace Richmond, which made only 2-of-15 from deep and 39 percent overall.
“For the most part we got pretty good pressure on them,” said Huggins. “All we talked about was chase them off the (3-point line). We could stand in there and let them shoot it because they shoot it really well.”
West Virginia was scheduled to play Friday at 10:30 p.m. against the winner of San Diego State or California, with the loser facing Richmond.
“I thought that our effort and toughness were tremendous tonight,” Spiders coach Chris Mooney said. “We responded to each one of their runs, and played with a lot of heart. We needed just a few more shots to fall to get us over that hump at different points in the game.”
Williams became the first WVU player since Rod Thorn in 1960-61 to start the season with five straight double-doubles.
“My challenge this year is to be the best leader I can, and just lead by example and show people I’ve put the work in to lead this team the best way I can,” Williams said.
West Virginia led by 12 early before settling for a 35-31 lead at halftime.
Three times in the final 7 minutes Richmond pulled within two points, but the Spiders never led despite owning the rebounding edge 36-31.
West Virginia forced a season-low 14 turnovers and saw top reserve Jaysean Paige lost to a sprained ankle, making him questionable for Friday’s championship game.
“If we would have lost I probably would have punched the turkey,” Huggins said. “We didn’t play very well – we didn’t make any shots – and then for a while there we didn’t guard very well so we’ve got to do a better job.”