DENVER -- Dionne Marsh scored 14 of her 22 points in the first half and New Mexico overcame poor shooting with a smothering defense to beat Utah 47-37 Saturday for its third straight Mountain West Conference tournament.
New Mexico (26-4) shot just 31 percent and allowed Utah to get within 35-31 before pulling away in the final 5½ minutes as the pro-Lobos crowd chanted "Three-peat! Three-peat!"
The Lobos, the tournament's top seed after tying Utah for the regular-season title, have won six straight games overall, which they hope will be enough to earn a high seed when the NCAA tournament announces its brackets on Sunday.
New Mexico did it by frustrating rival Utah yet again. The Lobos have beaten the Utes five straight times, including a 71-50 victory in last year's title game.
Utah (25-7) had a miserable start against New Mexico's swarming defense, missing nine of its first 10 shots, and didn't get a whole better. The Utes shot just 22 percent and were 4-of-24 from 3-point range in their first trip to the finals since winning the tournament in 2000.
But it wasn't just the Lobos' pressure. The Utes were way off on numerous open jumpers and shot just 7-of-13 from the free throw line.
Not even Kim Smith and Shona Thorburn, co-MVPs during the regular season, could find their strokes.
Smith, who averaged 17.9 points during the season, missed 10 of her first 11 shots and finished 3-for-17 2-of-11 on 3-pointers for 10 points. Thorburn, a 15.3-point scorer, was 3-for-14 and missed all four of her free throw attempts to finish with six points.
Mandi Moore led the defense from the top, hounding Utah's shooters into forced shots at the shot clock buzzer. She also stayed steady at the point when Utah started scrambling at the end, with just three turnovers to go with six assists, and charged in for 13 rebounds.
Marsh was solid at both ends to earn the tournament's MVP. The freshman from Flower Mound, Texas, hit 7 of 15 shots, grabbed 10 rebounds and teamed with Lindsey Arndt to take away Utah's inside game.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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