BYU 71

(9-21, 3-11 MW)

New Mexico 85

(24-6, 10-4 MW)

    9:00 PM ET, March 10, 2005

    Pepsi Center, Denver, Colorado

    1 2 T
    BYU 28 4371
    UNM 39 4685

    Top Performers

    BYU: J. Jensen 19 Pts, 6 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl

    New Mexico: D. Granger 23 Pts, 8 Reb, 5 Ast, 3 Stl, 4 Blk

    Lobos notch seventh straight victory

    DENVER (AP) -- They were ready for prime time, and next, the New Mexico Lobos hope to show they're ready for the NCAA Tournament, too.

    Led by 23 points from Danny Granger and a career-high 12 assists from Mark Walters, the Lobos beefed up their postseason resume Thursday night with their seventh straight victory, 85-71 over BYU in the first round of the Mountain West Conference tournament.

    "If they're going to lose, it's going to take an awfully good effort to beat them," BYU coach Steve Cleveland said.

    Conference officials scheduled second-seeded New Mexico (24-6) for a 9 p.m. EST start so more members of the NCAA selection committee -- many of whom live back East -- would be awake to watch.

    With their 24 wins being offset by a weak RPI rating of 85 and an abysmal schedule rated 298th toughest in the country, the Lobos find themselves squarely on the bubble, as they try to make the tournament for the first time since 1999.

    They need to impress at every opportunity and they did just that against seventh-seeded BYU (9-21), which was led by Jared Jensen with 19 points.

    Overcoming a slow start, Walters started moving the ball around better and finished with 12 points to go with his 12 assists. Alfred Neale went 4-for-5 from 3-point range to finish with 15. The star of the team, Granger, showed his versatility -- whirling in the paint, spotting up outside and catching a long pass for a sweet dunk late to lead the Lobos in scoring for the 16th time this season.

    Granger also finished with eight rebounds, five assists, four blocks and three steals and the Lobos improved to 24-3 with him in the lineup -- another factor they hope the NCAA will consider on "Selection Sunday."

    "We're not focused on who's watching us," said coach Ritchie McKay, who earned his first career victory in a postseason conference tournament in five tries. "We just take the next 20 minutes. We had two good halves tonight. We'll be judged on the body of our work."

    Walters' nice passing was part of a 26-assist night for New Mexico. McKay said the magic number is usually 18 or 19.

    "It was just in the flow of things," Walters said. "I didn't realize I had that many until coach told me."

    Conference commissioner Craig Thompson said the Lobos were given the prime spot in the first day's lineup -- top-seeded Utah played at noon Denver time -- in part to give them the exposure they might need to give the conference a second team in the NCAA's 65-team field. "It was definitely part of the decision," he said. "It was that, the crowd they could bring. They earned it."

    Not so happy was third-seeded Air Force, which played San Diego State in the late game, with the winner advancing to face UNM on Friday.

    Mike Hall added 13 points for the Cougars, who finished the season on a five-game losing streak and with the same record they had in 1997-98 -- Cleveland's first season with the program.

    After the game, Cleveland pulled McKay aside and complimented him on the job he's done with the Lobos, who defeated Utah 2½ weeks ago for the third win in their current streak.

    "I'm not sure if we played them 10 times we'd beat them once," Cleveland said. "They're a very, very talented team and they're playing with a lot of confidence right now."

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 71 85
    FG Made-Attempted 23-63 (.365) 28-53 (.528)
    3P Made-Attempted 6-22 (.273) 10-18 (.556)
    FT Made-Attempted 19-24 (.792) 19-28 (.679)
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 20 (0/0) 20 (0/0)
    Largest Lead 5 21

    2004-05 Season

    Jan 24, 2005 @BYU 68, UNM 53Recap
    Feb 19, 2005 @UNM 91, BYU 72Recap
    » Mar 10, 2005 @UNM 85, BYU 71Recap