An unhappy Drew Gordon arrived in Las Vegas looking to prove a point, and New Mexico's senior forward piled up enough points and rebounds to accomplish his goal.
Three wins in as many days also helped his cause.
Gordon's 12 points and 12 rebounds helped lift the second-seeded Lobos to a 68-59 victory over top-seeded San Diego State on Saturday in the Mountain West Conference tournament championship at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Gordon was named the tournament Most Valuable Player. What he also wanted, and said he felt he had earned, was to be voted the league's Player of the Year.
"I won one out of two, so it's not bad," Gordon said. "I've been saying this whole time that we need to end up on top, look back and kind of laugh at some of the honors that weren't awarded to our team."
The Lobos (27-6) threatened to turn the title game into a laugher before holding off a late charge by the Aztecs, who trimmed a 17-point deficit with 6½ minutes remaining to five with 1:21 to go.
Tony Snell and Kendall Williams each scored 14 points for New Mexico, which won the tournament for the first time in coach Steve Alford's five seasons.
"We're ecstatic about the quality of basketball we played over the last three days," said Alford, who called Friday's 72-67 semifinal victory over No. 3 seed UNLV a "great road win."
New Mexico, which shared the regular-season title with San Diego State (26-7), claimed the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Rebels are considered a lock to get an at-large invitation to the 68-team field, and Colorado State's chances seem favorable.
"Our league is deserving of four bids," said Alford, who hung a net around his neck for the postgame news conference. "You play this tournament for seeding in the NCAA Tournament. We're the automatic qualifier. We had the best record in the league. We obviously feel like we deserve the best seed.
"It doesn't mean one of the other teams can't have an equal seed, but we're definitely deserving of the best seed that's handed out to the Mountain West Conference."
It was a rough day in more ways than one for Aztecs sophomore Jamaal Franklin, the league's Player of the Year. Franklin shot 6-for-14 and scored 16 points to go with 10 rebounds. But he committed six turnovers and also appeared to flip off an official after a charging call late in the first half.
Franklin was caught by a TV camera flashing the middle-finger salute. Asked if that's what he did, Franklin said, "No, not at all."
Chase Tapley's 25 points led the Aztecs. Tapley made four of his five 3-pointers in the final six minutes. His fifth 3 cut the Lobos' lead to eight points with just under two minutes left, and Xavier Thames' two free throws narrowed the gap to 62-57.
New Mexico put the game away with free throws, hitting six down the stretch and 20 of 27 overall.
"I thought we were atypical, for whatever reason. We shot it too quickly, especially early," San Diego State coach Steve Fisher said. "We looked like we were playing twice as fast as we should be playing at the offensive end."
Snell got the Lobos off to a fast start by scoring 11 of their first 18 points. His fourth 3-pointer sent them into halftime with a 34-23 lead.
"We recruited Tony Snell," Fisher said. "I thought we had Tony Snell. He's good."
After transferring from UCLA in 2009, Gordon visited UNLV. He got a lukewarm response at the time, and came back to burn the Rebels on Friday with 19 points and 13 rebounds.
Gordon and Snell were joined on the all-tournament team by Franklin, Tapley and UNLV sophomore Mike Moser.
"I can't even explain how it feels right now," Snell said. "Like a dream come true."
■ NOTE -- UNLV will host a free viewing event on the Thomas & Mack floor for today's NCAA Tournament selection show on CBS. Doors open at 2 p.m. and the show begins at 3.
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907.