10:15 PM ET, December 10, 2005
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- New Mexico guard Abbie Letz is at a loss to explain why she's the team's leading rebounder.
"I don't know. I'm not fast and I can't jump," Letz said after scoring 13 points and grabbing a career-high 14 rebounds in No. 18 New Mexico's 75-59 win over North Dakota State on Saturday night in the championship game of the Lobo Shootout.
New Mexico (8-2) had four players in double figures but couldn't shake the scrappy Bison (3-4) until Letz scored five straight points to give New Mexico a 65-51 lead with 3:47 left.
The 6-foot-1 Letz has 69 rebounds this season. New Mexico coach Don Flanagan said what Letz lacks in quickness and size, she makes up with desire.
Flanagan noted that while in college, he wrote a paper on the most important facets of rebounding. He contacted the late Ralph Tasker of Hobbs, the winningest high school coach in state history.
"He said the most important thing is desire, nothing else," said Flanagan. "That's Abbie. She's got it."
North Dakota State trailed 46-34 five minutes into the second half, but rallied behind the inside scoring of center Danni Heintzelman and guard Lisa Bue. Heintzelman scored seven points in a 9-0 run that cut the Lobos' lead to 48-43 with 12:07 left.
The Bison got within five points three more times but New Mexico countered with eight straight points, including a field goal and two free throws by Dionne Marsh, a lay-up by Julie Briody and an offensive rebound basket by Brandi Kimble.
"We were our own worst enemy," said North Dakota State coach Amy Ruley. "We were still in it with seven, eight minutes to go and we made turnovers, bad shot selection and we didn't cover the three."
Bue several times beat Letz on drives into the paint to score lay-ups and Heintzelman scored with soft-touch left-handed banks. Bue finished with 18 points and Heintzelman scored 17.
"We wanted to take away their high-low game, and we did that," Flanagan said. "But they're a very physical team and a very confident bunch."
Marsh scored 15 for New Mexico, despite being in foul trouble in the second half. Briody added 16 points -- 12 after halftime.
North Dakota State took a 6-2 lead but New Mexico went ahead for good with eight straight points, five by Marsh. The Bison shut down Lobo point guard Katie Montgomery and didn't allow her to take a shot in the first half until she launched a 40-footer that banked in at the halftime buzzer.
It was the only field goal Montgomery hit all night as the Bison had a defender shadow the Lobos' point guard all night. Montgomery put up just five shots but found enough open teammates to contribute six assists.
"She took an extra step and I wasn't sure she was going to get it off," Flanagan said of Montgomery's highlight shot. "It was great timing, and I think it perked us up for the second half."
Letz also had five assists and Lobo center Jana Francis scored 11 points.