March 13, 2004
Denver, Colo. -- New Mexico used a staggering second-half performance at both ends of the floor to break open a close game and run away with its second straight Mountain West Conference Tournament title, pounding Utah 71-50. The score was tied 32-32 at halftime.
The Lobos are now 23-7 overall and have won 11 straight games, tying a 26-year-old school record. UNM earns the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and will play at home in The Pit next Saturday. New Mexico is hosting the first and second rounds March 20 and 22. Tickets are currently available at www.golobos.com by clicking on the red-and-blue NCAA logo. Utah falls to 24-7.
New Mexico advances to its third straight NCAA Tournament, and fourth overall, all under ninth-year head coach Don Flanagan.
Maybe it took a shot to the mouth of a teammate to fire up the Lobos. After losing an early 12-4 lead, the Lobos trailed 32-27 late in the first half when junior point guard Mandi Moore took a blow to her head. Moore suffered a gash in her upper lip that required three stitches and she was limited to just 19 minutes.
Tied at halftime, New Mexico came out on fire. The Lobos made nine of their first 12 shots from the floor after the break to go up 53-37 with 11:39 left in the game. The margin grew to 58-37 as UNM's run was 31-5 after losing Moore in the first half.
An 11-2 Utah run trimmed the lead to 60-48, but senior Melissa Forest had a putback off a missed free throw and a 3-pointer to secure the Lobo win.
New Mexico set a school-record by making 62.5% (10-16) of its 3-point shots. The Lobos shot a season-high 55% (22-40) overall, including a steamy 64% (14-22) after halftime. UNM was also solid at the free-throw line, converting 77% (17-22).
In outscoring Utah 39-18 in the second half, the Lobos held the Utes to just 23% (6-26) accuracy from the field after the break, including 3 of 14 (21%) from beyond the arc. New Mexico limited Utah to just two points on its first 10 possessions of the second period.
The Lobos jumped out to 10-2 lead as Forest scored on two free throws and a three-pointer.
The Utes stormed back, using a 9-0 run to take a 24-19 advantage. Utah's lead grew to 29-23 before Forest hit a 3-pointer to cap a 9-3 Lobo spurt that tied the score at 32 going into halftime.
Junior Lindsey Arndt was named tournament MVP after collecting 14 points and eight rebounds. Forest led UNM with 18 points, including 4 of 6 from 3-point, and was named to the all-tournament team. Subbing for the injured Moore was freshman guard Katie Montgomery, who tallied 14 points and four rebounds in 31 minutes off the bench. Montgomery was 3 of 4 from beyond the arc.