Utah guard Chris Grant careens into New Mexico forward David Chiotti to pull in a rebound. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
March 12, 2005
By EDDIE PELLS
AP Sports Writer
DENVER (AP) - The selection committee can stop worrying about New Mexico. A lot of NCAA tournament teams out there probably ought to start, though.
The Lobos made their invitation to the NCAAs a formality Saturday night, getting 28 points, 11 rebounds and four straight clutch free throws from Danny Granger in a 60-56 victory over No. 15 Utah in the Mountain West championship game.
Playing as though their season was at stake - even though it probably wasn't by this point - the second-seeded Lobos (26-6) jumped on Andrew Bogut and the top-seeded Utes (27-5) early and kept them an arm's distance away most of the way.
And when Bogut (19 points, 16 rebounds) triggered a 9-2 run that gave the Utes a 49-48 lead with 3:35 left - their first since midway through the first half - New Mexico responded. Alfred Neale slammed home a miss for a 50-49 lead. David Chiotti made a move that felled Bogut and made an easy layup.
After two Utah free throws made it 52-51, Granger made two huge baskets, forcing a shot over a defender under the basket for one score, then dribbling to the baseline and shaking loose from defender Marc Jackson for an open 15 footer that he buried for a 56-51 lead.
Bogut responded with a 3-pointer with 21 seconds left, but Granger countered by sinking four free throws down the stretch to keep it a two-possession game.
When the buzzer sounded, center Bambale Osby sprinted off the bench and did two handsprings - cheerleader style - then the Lobos went into the crowd to celebrate along with the thousands who followed them up Interstate 25 to watch them earn their first NCAA bid since 1999.