March 20, 2004
By PETE HERRERA
AP Sports Writer
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Vanessa Hayden scored 15 of her 17 points in the second half and Florida scored the final 10 points to beat New Mexico 68-56 in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Florida (19-10) advances to the second round of the Midwest Regional, where the Gators will face the winner of the Baylor-Loyola Marymount on Monday.
New Mexico (23-8) used a 14-4 run late in the game to get within 58-56 with 2:57 left on a 3-pointer by Melissa Forest. But the Lobos would not score again.
The Gators' Tishona Gregory scored on a three-point play with 2:10 left, then hit two free throws 30 seconds later. A layup by Danielle Santos stretched the lead to 65-56 with a minute left.
Florida's Tashia Morehead scored 16 points, all of them in the first half, and hit a season-high four 3-pointers. She had 11 rebounds. Bernice Mosby added 17 points.
With Morehead going 4-for-4 from behind the arc, the Gators hardly missed Hayden in the first 20 minutes. Hayden sat out the last 11:50 of the first half with two fouls.
Hayden, the SEC's defensive player of the year and the Gators' leading scorer and rebounder, took over in the second half. She scored 14 points in the first 7? minutes and grabbed nine of her 10 rebounds after halftime.
Lindsey Arndt led New Mexico with 11 points. Forest had 10 rebounds but Florida won the rebounding by a 45-36 margin.
The Gators also took out the red-clad, partisan New Mexico crowd of 16,029. The Lobos rode the homecourt edge and their raucous fans into last year's round of 16 with wins in The Pit over Miami and Mississippi State, but the Gators' threesome of Morehead, Hayden and Mosby were too tough.
New Mexico put up 21 3s in the game and hit just five. Fifteen of the Lobos' first 20 shots were 3-pointers.
The loss snapped New Mexico's 11-game winning streak.