Despite a lively home crowd and playing on the Longhorns' own floor, it did not look good for Texas in the third quarter of Sunday's NCAA Tournament game against North Carolina State.
Texas saw a 13-point, first-half lead turn into an 8-point N.C. State advantage (six different times in the third quarter) as the Wolfpack came roaring back behind star guard Miah Spencer's 31 points.
"Ironically, I wrote on the board today before the game that it didn't matter what it looked like, we just needed to win," said Texas coach Karen Aston. "That was a good thing to write, probably, today. But our group never gave in."
Karen Aston's team will play in the Sweet 16 in Lexington, Ky., against the winner of the Stanford-Kansas State game.
Texas swept K-State and lost at Stanford earlier this season.
Texas' Big 12 player of the year - junior Brooke McCarty - led the Longhorns in scoring with 23 points. But McCarty's best play of the game was selling a holding call on Spencer - her fifth foul - with 1:03 left and N.C. State leading by one - 78-77.
McCarty's arms were actually the ones doing the holding on Spencer, but when McCarty tried to break on an inbounds play, McCarty raised her arms and flopped and got the call.
"She did a great job for her team," McCarty said of Spencer. "We knew she had her fourth foul, so I tried to engage her as much as I could to get her that fifth foul."
McCarty made both free throws from the foul call, putting Texas up 79-78. Texas' Ariel Atkins then stole N.C. State's inbounds pass and took it in for a fast-break layup, putting Texas up, 81-78. Atkins fouled N.C. State's Ashley Williams, who made both free throws with 51 seconds left, giving Texas an 81-80 lead.
Then, Texas appeared to make a fatal mistake when it committed a shot-clock violation out of a timeout, giving N.C. State the ball, down by one, with 20 seconds left and the shot clock off.
The Wolfpack did what good teams do in that situation - they attacked the basket. But when N.C. State's Dominique Wilson blitzed the rim UT's freshman Holmes was waiting for her with both feet set, drawing the charging call with 8 seconds left.
"Dom(inique) tried to make something happen," Spencer said. "I thought it was a good take. I thought we won the game with that one."
Texas inbounded the ball to Lashann Higgs, who was fouled with 7.4 seconds left. Higgs hit the first free throw, putting the Longhorns up, 82-80.
But Higgs missed the second FT, and there was Holmes again, grabbing the miss and putting it back for an 84-80 lead with 5 seconds left.
N.C. State's errant desperation heave after that simply ran out the clock.
"The thing I've been impressed with most about Joyner is that she has never backed down from the expectations here at Texas," Aston said. "We haven't had a power forward (the past two seasons). She stepped into a role we very much needed. And for her to take it on the way she has, I've just been so impressed."
Texas reached the Sweet 16 two seasons ago and the Elite Eight last season, getting knocked out by eventual champion UConn both times. Reaching the Sweet 16 for a third straight year is something McCarty called "the standard."
"This is what you do," McCarty said. "You come here to do this."
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