New Mexico forward Dionne Marsh and guard Brandi Kimble knew the Mountain West Conference Tournament was within their grasp.
All they had to do was go out and finish the job.
Marsh and Kimble combined for 43 points and 19 rebounds, carrying the Lobos to the women’s title with a 62-59 victory over San Diego State on Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Center.
No. 4 seed New Mexico (20-12) clinched the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, earning its seventh trip in a row.
Marsh, who finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds, was voted tournament Most Valuable Player for the third time. Kimble had 22 points and nine rebounds.
"I don’t know how you make a decision between those two players (for MVP)," New Mexico coach Don Flanagan said.
Kimble made 4 of 5 3-pointers and held San Diego State’s best player, Jene Morris, to 10 points, well under her 22.5 average in prior tournament games. Morris also fouled out.
Marsh was equally effective defensively, getting San Diego State’s Allison Duffy (15 points) and Paris Johnson in foul trouble. Each picked up four personals, and the sixth-seeded Aztecs (18-13) wound up playing tentatively.
New Mexico outrebounded the Aztecs 36-23.
"At the end of the day, rebounding does win championships," Aztecs coach Beth Burns said. "We struggled, I think, beginning, middle and end in that area."
Still, the game came down to the closing minutes.
A follow by guard/forward Porche Torrance with 3:29 left and a layup by Marsh with 14.4 seconds remaining put the Lobos ahead 60-56.
San Diego State guard Quenese Davis hit a 3-pointer with 11.4 seconds left to get the Aztecs within one, but New Mexico guard Amy Beggin answered with two free throws to push the lead to 62-59.
Then Davis’ last-second 3-point attempt bounced high off the backboard and on the front of the rim.
"San Diego State plays well," Marsh said. "They’re going to keep fighting. We had a lot of practice with that all year, trying to gain poise throughout games."
• NOTES — San Diego State women’s basketball administrative assistant Helen Kanavel was killed in a traffic accident Friday in San Diego. "We just wanted to play as hard as we could. We knew she wouldn’t want us to give up in the end," Duffy said. … Kimble, Marsh, Duffy, Morris and Colorado State’s Sara Hunter made the all-tournament team.
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at email@example.com or (702) 387-2914.NEW MEXICO — 62 SAN DIEGO STATE — 59 KEY: The Lobos’ Brandi Kimble had 22 points and Dionne Marsh scored 21 on her way to tournament MVP honors.