March 19, 2006
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - Florida traveled all the way from the swamp to the desert only to get blown out by New Mexico's best night of basketball this season.
Jana Francis scored a career-high 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting and the 11th-seeded Lobos got off to a strong start in an 83-59 romp over the fifth-seeded Gators on Saturday night in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Katie Montgomery matched her career best with 21 points, 14 in the first half when she made four of five 3-pointers to help the Lobos to an overwhelming 48-24 lead at the break. Dionne Marsh added 18 points for the Lobos.
If New Mexico (22-9) can knock off defending NCAA champion Baylor in the second round on Monday night, the Lobos will advance to the regional semifinals to be played on their home court in Albuquerque.
Dalila Eshe scored 17 and Danielle Santos 15 for the Gators (21-9), who shot 34 percent and were under 30 percent most of the night. New Mexico shot 51 percent.
Inconsistency has plagued the Gators all season. In the final four games of the regular season, they won at Tennessee and beat LSU at home, but lost one-sided contests to Auburn and South Carolina.
New Mexico, cheered on by a big following that made the trek from Albuquerque, didn't exactly come in on a roll, either. The Lobos were 5-5 over their previous 10 games, including a 57-45 first-round loss to UNLV in the Mountain West Conference tournament.
New Mexico topped that point total by halftime. Its 48 points was a season high for a half.
The Lobos shot 57 percent (17-for-30) in the first half, compared with 29 percent (8-for-28) for the Gators.
The Lobos took control for good with a 17-2 run that gave them a 28-12 lead on Marsh's soft jumper in the lane with 7:21 left in the half. The outburst grew to 28-6 and the lead reached 39-16 after Montgomery's 3-pointer with 4:42 to go in the half.
The Gators trailed by as many as 30 and never got closer than 20 in the second half.
It was a rematch of a first-round NCAA game two years ago. Florida won that one on New Mexico's home court.
The Lobos, in their fifth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance and sixth overall, advanced to the second round for the second time. The other came in 2003, when they made it to the regional semifinals.