LAS VEGAS New Mexico won its fifth Mountain West Conference title in six seasons Saturday behind 22 points from Brandi Kimble and 21 from Dionne Marshall, as the fourth-seeded Lobos fended off sixth-seeded San Diego State 62-59.
Quenese Davis, whose long 3-pointer brought the Aztecs to within 60-59 with 11 seconds remaining, circled around the right elbow and fired up another deep 3 at the buzzer. It banked high off the glass but hit the iron on its way down and bounced away as the Lobos sprinted to center court to celebrate the victory.
The Aztecs (18-13) gave a valiant effort for their third upset in this tournament, and they were playing with heavy hearts following the death of 60-year-old Helen Kanavel, the team's administrative assistant who was killed in a traffic accident Friday night.
Seeking their first conference crown and NCAA tournament bid since 1997, when they won the Western Athletic Conference tourney, the Aztecs jumped out to a nine-point lead 2 1/2 minutes into the second half before fading.
In the end, it was the Lobos (20-12) cutting down the nets for the fifth time since 2003 and clinching their seventh straight trip to the NCAA Tournament.
This one was a bit of a long shot. They stood at 14-12 after losing to Utah on Feb. 23 but haven't lost since. The Lobos also won the tournament title in 2003, '04, '05 and '06, yet they were never lower than a third seed in any of them. They came in seeded fourth this year behind Utah, TCU and Wyoming.
Allison Duffy scored 15 points and Davis added 12 for the Aztecs, who were 15-of-19 from the foul line and the misses were costly: Duffy missed two with 5:42 left, and Paris Johnson missed a pair inside of a minute.
Duffy picked up her fourth foul away from the ball with the clock at 3:41 and the game tied at 56. Marsh missed the free throw but grabbed the board, and Porch Torrance's putback gave New Mexico the lead for good at 58-56.
After a series of bad shots and missed opportunities by both teams, Marsh banked a shot off the backboard for a 60-56 lead with 14.6 seconds left, but Davis sank a deep 3 just three seconds later to pull San Diego State to 60-59.
Amy Beggin was fouled on the inbounds play and sank both free throws, giving New Mexico a 62-59 lead. After a timeout, Davis nearly sent the game into overtime.
FRESNO STATE 72, NEW MEXICO STATE 56: At Las Cruces, N.M., Fresno State didn't need a desperation heave this time.
Freshman Jaleesa Ross scored 16 of her 20 points in the second half, and the Bulldogs advanced to the women's NCAA Tournament for the first time, beating New Mexico State 72-56 on Saturday in the WAC tournament finals.
Tierre Wilson scored 17 points and Bailey Amundsen added 11, sending Fresno State (22-10) into the NCAA Tournament on a hot streak. The Bulldogs have won four straight and 20 of their last 22 games.