New Mexico State's Pascal Siakam, center, shoots against Seattle's William Powell, left, and Jack Crook in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the championship round of the Western Athletic Conference tournament Saturday, March 14, 2015,
Ronda Churchill
March 15, 2015

LAS VEGAS (AP) The New Mexico State Aggies got exceptional offensive performances in the final of the Western Athletic Conference tournament Saturday night, but it was the defense that lifted them to the title.

The Aggies shut down Isiah Umipig, Seattle's best scorer, and used their pressure and zone defense to beat the Redhawks 80-61 for their fourth consecutive tournament title and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Tourney MVP Tshilidzi Nephawe scored 18 points and had 10 rebounds for the Aggies (23-10), who also won the regular-season title. Remi Barry made four 3-pointers and led New Mexico State with 21 points. The Aggies shot 52.5 percent for the game and converted 8 of 15 3-point attempts.

But the difference might have been their ability to shut down Umipig, who had 30 points in a semifinal win over Missouri-Kansas City and led the conference in 3-pointers this season. Umipig was just 2-of-7 shooting and scored most of his 13 points when the game was already decided.

''We had some bullet points defensively that we needed to reach, and one of those was limiting their 3-point attempts,'' Aggies coach Marvin Menzies said. ''If Seattle is making 3s they can beat you. They can beat anybody.''

New Mexico State made it difficult for Seattle (16-15) to get into an offensive rhythm. The Redhawks committed 15 turnovers and scored just four second-chance points.

''It's the cruelest of sports sometimes,'' Seattle coach Cameron Dollar said. ''New Mexico State was outstanding defensively. We couldn't really get anything going at all. We tried to make plays, but their length and athleticism bothered us.''

Jadon Cohee led Seattle with 16 points and William Powell had 14.

Aggies guard Daniel Mullings finished with seven assists and six steals.

The Aggies' big men controlled the boards in the opening half and limited Seattle's offense to one shot on each possession, two big reasons they led 33-22 at the half.

The Redhawks had just one offensive rebound and no second-chance points in the first half, and New Mexico State's hot shooting allowed it to pull in front by 13 at the midway point. The Aggies stretched it to 22 in the final three minutes.

Defensively, the Aggies pressured Seattle with a zone that forced eight turnovers. Umipig, his team's leading scorer, had only one long-distance basket for three points.

TIP-INS

Seattle: The Seahawks were attempting to advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1969. They played in Division II from 2002 to 2008, then returned to Division I in 2009 as an independent and joined the WAC in 2013.

New Mexico State: The Aggies took a 12-game winning streak into the final, the third longest current streak in Division I.

NEXT UP

New Mexico State: NCAA Tournament.

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