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Las Vegas • A disastrous start kept Utah Valley University from advancing beyond the semifinals of the Western Athletic Conference basketball tournament.

UVU missed nine shots and committed nine turnovers before finally making a basket in a 58-44 loss to No. 1 seed New Mexico State at Orleans Arena. The Wolverines actually may have lost this game long before Friday — which was not their fault. NMSU's loss to Texas-Rio Grande Valley on Senior Night last weekend was the Aggies' only conference defeat, and the WAC's regular-season champions took out their frustrations on UVU.

"Our kids were very motivated today," said NMSU coach Mark Trakh, whose 25-4 team received a bye into the semifinals of the seven-team tournament.

The Wolverines (16-15) had trouble even getting shots off in the first half, with three shot-clock violations and 13 turnovers in all. UVU coach Cathy Nixon cited "unfamiliar territory" in her program's first WAC semifinal appearance for part of the offensive issues. NMSU caused some percentage of UVU's problems with its pressure defense.

"I would have done the same thing," Nixon said.

UVU had lost two regular-season meetings with NMSU by a total of 11 points, but the Aggies were overwhelming from the start Friday. Under different circumstances, senior guard Patrice Toston's season-high 19 points may have driven the Wolverines to an upset. In this case, her surprising contribution only made the score more respectable. NMSU led 12-2 after the first quarter, as Toston's two free throws provided UVU's only points until she made a layup with 9:15 left in the second period.

All-WAC center Sam Loggins added 13 points for UVU. At one stage, Toston and Loggins had scored 24 of UVU's 29 points. UVU starters Rebecca MaWhinney and Deijah Blanks went a combined 0 for 13 from the field and the team was 1 of 13 from 3-point range.

Nixon liked how the Wolverines rallied from 23 points down in the third quarter to within 10 in the last two minutes, though.

The comeback created a more tolerable ending for Loggins and Toston. UVU's two seniors "took our program to places that we've never been before," Nixon said.

Twitter: @tribkurt