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Utah keeps it close before falling at The Pit

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A strong start to the second half for New Mexico led to a 61-55 victory for the Lobos over the University of Utah women's basketball team Saturday afternoon at The Pit. That strong second half also overcame an outstanding performance from Utah junior guard Shona Thorburn, who tallied a season-high 28 points.

New Mexico (14-2, 3-0 MWC) led 33-30 at the intermission. The Lobos opened the second half with a 6-2 spurt to take a 39-32 advantage. Meanwhile, the New Mexico defense was stifling to open the second half. Utah (14-5, 2-1) didn't manage to reach 10 points in the second half until the 7:31 mark of the second half.

By that time, New Mexico had built an 11-point advantage, 49-38. The Utes would not allow the 14,890 fans or the Lobos to celebrate at that point, however. Thorburn hit a left-handed leaner in the paint to pull Utah back within single digits, 49-40.

The Utes still trailed by nine, 55-46, with 1:04 left in the game when junior forward Kim Smith scored going down the lane to pull her team within seven again, 55-48. With 53 seconds left, the Utes pulled within five as Thorburn stole an inbounds pass and scored on the breakaway layup to make it 55-50. But that's as close as Utah would get. New Mexico's Mandi Moore hit four-of-four from the free-throw line in the final 27 seconds to ice the victory for the Lobos.

Thorburn, the reigning Mountain West Conference Player of the Week, had a huge game. The Hamilton, Ontario, Canada native tallied her season-high 28 points on 10-of-19 shooting, including 3-of-6 from behind the three-point arc. Thorburn tallied a double-double, pulling down 12 rebounds to go along with her 28-point effort. Smith was the only other Ute player to reach double figures, scoring 12.

New Mexico was paced by three players in double figures. Dionne Marsh came off the bench to score a team-high 14 points. Lindsey Arndt and Moore each tallied 10 for the Lobos. Bench scoring was big for New Mexico, as the Lobos' bench outscored Utah's bench 24-0.

Utah committed a season-high 21 turnovers and New Mexico outscored the Utes 20-15 in points off turnovers. The Lobos did much of their damage at the free-throw line, shooting 25 free throws as opposed to just 13 for Utah. New Mexico converted 19 of its charity-stripe attempts.

The Utes are off until next Saturday, when they travel to Provo, Utah for a Mountain West conference with BYU. Tipoff is slated for 3 p.m. at the Marriott Center.

OAKLAND 75, SUU 60: Oakland University guard Jayme Wilson led all scorers with 28 points as the Golden Grizzlies halted Southern Utah's season-high three-game winning streak with a convincing 75-60 victory in Mid-Continent Conference women's basketball action Saturday afternoon in Rochester, Mich. The loss spoiled SUU's chance to even its season record as the Thunderbirds dropped to 7-9 on the year, 3-2 in conference play, while Oakland jumped over SUU for third place in the Mid-Con standings at 4-2 and improved to 12-5 overall.

New Mexico 61

Utah 55