Fresno State rolls New Mexico State for first NCAA tournament berth

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) -- 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.

As confetti fell from the rafters, the Bulldogs gathered at midcourt and held up a sign that said, "We're going dancing."

Ross was selected MVP of the WAC tournament, adding to her regular-season award as the league's newcomer of the year.

There was no more magic for New Mexico State (23-9), which lost in the WAC tournament championship game for the third straight year.

In a semifinal win over Boise State, the Aggies erased a 19-point deficit in the second half for a stirring comeback victory. This time, they just couldn't get the shots to fall and disappointed fans never got involved.

Trouble was everywhere for NMSU, starting with Fresno State's 49-29 rebounding advantage. Plus, starting point guard Madison Spence watched all 40 minutes from the bench after spraining an ankle against Boise State.

Sherell Neal, the Aggies' leading scorer with a 14.1 average, missed her first five shots and didn't score until six minutes into the second half. By then, Fresno State was up 41-31.

The Bulldogs didn't ease up, either. Amundsen hit a 3-pointer and Ross drove for a layup, pushing the lead to 46-31 with 13:02 remaining. It was 55-35 at the 8-minute mark when Wilson hit another from outside.

Ross made two 3-pointers as the Bulldogs opened the second half with an 11-4 run to break away from a 28-23 lead at the break.

Anikia Jawara scored 19 to lead the Aggies while Neal finished with 13.

Fresno State won a league regular-season title for the first time this spring, aided by a dramatic finish two weeks ago in Las Cruces when the Bulldogs won 85-84 in overtime. Hayley Munro banked in a 70-footer at the final horn to beat the Aggies, and Fresno State went on to share the WAC championship with Boise State.

The only thing missing from Fresno's historic season was the school's first NCAA berth, and Wilson helped fix that by hitting all four of her second-half field goal attempts.