New Mexico State's Zaire Williams, left, drives the ball past Texas-Pan American's Shawnte' Goff in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the championship round of the Western Athletic Conference tournament Saturday, March 14, 2015, in Las
Ronda Churchill
March 14, 2015

LAS VEGAS (AP) Whether it was inside or outside, New Mexico State couldn't seem to miss in the first half of the Western Athletic Conference final Saturday against Texas-Pan American.

The Aggies shot 69 percent in the opening half and routed the Broncs 70-52 for their first tournament title and first NCAA bid since 1988.

Tourney MVP Brianne Freeman finished with 17 points and nine rebounds for the Aggies (22-7), Sasha Weber had 20, and Shanice Davis 14.

''The kids were ready to play from the opening tipoff,'' New Mexico State coach Mark Trakh said. ''Sasha got us going offensively in the first half and we played great defense against a very athletic team.''

Texas-Pan American (19-14) struggled offensively throughout the game, making just 24 percent of its shots in the game (17 of 31) and 14 percent in the second half. The Broncs missed their first 13 shots after halftime.

Cha'zaye Wright led the Broncs with 15 points and Shawnte Goff had 11, but they were a combined 8 of 24 from the field.

''Sometimes it falls, sometimes it pours,'' Texas-Pan American coach Larry Tidwell said. ''We had a good mind frame out of the locker room, but when we didn't hit our shots, it gets frustrating.''

New Mexico State began to pull away midway through the first half, mostly as a result of its hot shooting. The Aggies made eight consecutive baskets, including 4 of 4 from 3-point distance, against Texas-Pan American's 2-3 zone, then scored from inside.

Freeman was difficult to stop under the basket, scoring on a series of layups and making 6 of 7 shots in the first half for 11 points. When the Broncs collapsed on her, Weber (5 of 6 from long distance) burned them with outside shooting.

''Brianna opens up our outside game because people just can't stay matched up on us,'' Trakh said. ''They've got to honor her. They've got to send a double (team) or try to play her one on one and take their chances on her.''

A 13-0 run over a 5-minute stretch gave the Aggies a 20-point lead, 33-13.

TIP-INS

Texas-Pan American: The Broncs beat second-seeded Bakersfield in the semifinals and were trying to win their first tournament title. The university, which has never reached the NCAA Tournament, will merge with Texas-Brownsville this summer to become Texas-Rio Grande Valley.

New Mexico State: The Aggies recovered from a horrendous start to the season, going 0-5 in November before winning 22 of their next 24 games, including Saturday's tourney championship. They hadn't reached the WAC Tournament final since 2008.

UP NEXT

New Mexico State: NCAA Tournament.

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