West Virginia overcomes partisan crowd to top New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- West Virginia couldn't take the partisan Pit crowd out of the game. The Mountaineers still managed to knock the hometown New Mexico Lobos out of the NCAA tournament.

Chakhia Cole scored 22 points, including the winning jumper with 17.5 seconds left as the No. 5 seeded Mountaineers (25-7) eked out a 61-60 victory over the Lobos in the first round Saturday night.

Cole got off the biggest shot of the game despite nearly losing the ball in the lane. She hinted she wasn't necessarily looking at herself as the first scoring option.

"I knew I had to get the shot up," Cole said. "What was really going through my mind was the attack and then trying to see if someone would break open."

New Mexico (20-13), seeded 12th, had a last-second chance to spring the upset, but a bank shot by Brandi Kimble was too hard and Dionne Marsh's offensive rebound putback came up short.

"I think I shot it a little too hard, but I got a good look," Kimble said.

West Virginia coach Mike Carey said: "I think I was holding my breath because I was dizzy by the time the buzzer went off."

Except for the outcome, the final play went just like New Mexico coach Don Flanagan drew it up during a timeout.

"I got exactly what I wanted," Flanagan said. "We ran Brandi off a stagger and she made a great move to get past the first player. Just a little too much adrenaline on that shot. Dionne had a second opportunity and that's all you can ask for. We had other opportunities."

Especially late in the first half, when turnovers and poor shot selection by the Lobos helped the Mountaineers score the final seven points of the half for a 36-29 lead.

"I was disappointed with the last four minutes of the first half because we were playing right with them," Flanagan said. "If we go in down just a point or two, it's maybe a different game in the second half."

Playing in front of a boisterous crowd of more than 12,000 fans at The Pit, the Mountaineers overcame a late scoring drought and a technical foul on point guard Ashley Powell.

Powell was whistled after going down with Kimble in a battle for a loose ball. New Mexico's Amy Beggin hit two free throws off the technical to give New Mexico a 55-52 lead with 2:35 left.

Cole tied it with a 3-pointer with 2:02 left. It was the Mountaineers' first points since the 7:14 mark.

Marsh put the Lobos back in front with two free throws with 1:40 remaining. Cole forced another tie 17 seconds later with two free throws.

Olayinka Sanni, the Mountaineers leading scorer who sat out most of the first half in foul trouble, made it 59-57 on a layup, but New Mexico's Angela Hartill hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 31.6 seconds left for the Lobos' final lead.

West Virginia got the ball to Cole. She dribbled for the key, spun away from a defender and almost lost the ball, then drilled the winner from 10 feet.

The loss dampened a brilliant performance by Kimble, who hit a career-high five 3-pointers and had a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Kimble kept the Lobos in the game with her athletic moves to the basket.

But it wasn't enough against the Mountaineers, who made up for Sanni's limited playing time and 8-point game behind Cole and LaQuita Owens, who scored all 13 of her points in the first half.

"It was a little frustrating because getting two quick fouls is the worst thing a center can do," Sanni said. "I tried to stay positive."

The loss stopped the Lobos' six-game winning streak that included their fifth Mountain West Conference tournament title in six years.