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Utah WAC's New Mexico For Title


Alex Jensen helped No. 8 Utah dominate inside in the second half Saturday night as the Utes beat No. 25 New Mexico 60-45 to cap a perfect Western Athletic Conference season by winning the WAC tournament championship.

Utah, with its 22nd straight win, finished a combined 17-0 in the WAC regular season and postseason tournament by beating New Mexico for the third time this year.

Jensen had 10 of his 18 points in the second half as Utah went inside against an undermanned New Mexico team playing for the third straight game without star center Kenny Thomas, out with a groin injury.

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  • The Utes (27-4), outrebounded in the first half and leading by only a point at halftime, used their big height advantage in the second half to pull away.

    New Mexico (24-8) trailed only 40-37 with 12:13 left in the game when Hanno Mottola started a 10-0 run with a layup. By the time Jensen scored inside to finish the run off, Utah was ahead 50-37 and had the game in hand.

    Utah, which was never outrebounded in winning 21 straight games prior to the conference final, outrebounded New Mexico 24-14 in the second half and 41-33 for the game.

    Jensen, the tournament's most valuable player, had 11 of those rebounds to go with his 18 points on a night when star guard Andre Miller hit only six of 15 shots, missing all six 3-point attempts.

    Kevin Henry scored 13 points for New Mexico while Damion Walker had 12 points and 13 rebounds.

    Utah beat New Mexico by 30 points only a week ago, and 18 points when the two teams met early last month.

    Thomas was in the lineup for both of those games, but sat on the bench in street clothes as the Lobos fielded a small lineup featuring three guards to try and offset the height advantage of Utah's big front line.

    It worked during the first half as the makeshift lineup outhustled the Utes and outrbounded them 19-17.

    The lead changed hands nine times during the first half before Utah took its biggest lead of the half, 24-18, on a 3-pointer by Mottola with four minutes remaining. New Mexico kept scrapping, however, and had a chance to tie the game when Walker scored underneath and was fouled with 4.6 seconds left.

    Walker missed the free throw, however, and Utah went into halftime leading 27-26.

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