Boise St. overcomes first-half woes to earn NCAA bid

LAS CRUCES, N.M. -- Boise State's headed to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 13 years thanks to Tasha Harris.

The 5-foot-7 senior scored 10 of her 13 points in the second half, most of them coming on drives to the basket and the top-seeded Broncos beat New Mexico State 49-46 to win the Western Athletic Conference tournament Saturday.

Boise State (24-8) is going to the NCAA for the first time since 1994. The Broncos won despite a horrendous first half of shooting. They had just one field goal in the final 11 1/2 minutes and hit just 5 of 29 shots in the first half.

The problem, said Boise State coach Gordy Presnell, was NMSU's zone and his team's passive offense. That's where Harris stepped up over the final 20 minutes.

"She attacked down the left side. The bottom [Aggie] wing would go out to take a shooter and that left a lane open. She did a nice job and got aggressive. We had been very, very passive against that thing until she started attacking it."

Harris repeatedly drove into the lane and either took the shot or found an open teammate. Her 3-point play with 6:57 left gave the Broncos a 43-42 lead and after Neal scored on an offensive rebound, Jackie Lane hit a 3-pointer -- her only points of the game -- to put the Broncos in front for good.

"We weren't getting a lot of movement, so I figured, why not," Harris said.

Amanda Stewart's putback with 4:18 left put the Broncos ahead 48-44 and Jessica Thompson added a free throw with 8.6 seconds remaining. New Mexico State's only points over the final 4 minutes were a pair of free throws by Sherell Neal with 1:18 remaining.

Neal missed two free throws with 4:44 left and the Aggies up 44-43 and teammate Anikia Jawara misssed the front end of a one-and-one with 1:18 remaining.

New Mexico State coach Darin Spence attributed the Aggies' breakdown on offense to the pressure of a championship game on a team that had struggled all season and at one point lost 10 of 13 games.

"You're not used to doing it," Spence said. "Habits, good and bad are tough to break. We struggled at being consistent all year."

New Mexico State (13-18) fell short in its bid to pull off another upset. For the second straight year the Aggies made it to the championship game as the seventh seed, but again came up short. NMSU lost to Louisiana Tech in last year's title game. The Aggies eliminated No. 2 seed Louisiana Tech in this year's quarterfinals and beat No. 3 Nevada in the semifinals on Friday.

Neal led the Aggies with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Her final points were two free throws with 1:18 left that cut the Broncos' lead to 48-46 and ended a more than 4 minute drought by the Aggies.

Harris missed on a 3-pointer with 52 seconds left, but the rebound came out long and reserve guard Nadia Begay, a native of Kirtland, N.M., got it.

Boise State's Rebecca Kepilino, who had 12 rebounds, missed on a short shot in the lane with 26 seconds left. In the scramble for the rebound, the ball went out of bounds and the Aggies were awarded the possession although it appeared Neal had touched it last.

New Mexico State guard Monique Bribiescas fumbled an attempted baseline shot and Boise State rebounded. Thompson then hit the first of two free throws with 8.6 seconds left and Bribiescas' 3-pointer with 3 seconds left was short.