TEXAS WOMEN NIP N.C. STATE, AD­VANCE TO SWEET 16

UT women de­feat Wolf­pack to make it to round of 16 for third straight year.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Rick Cantu rcantu@states­man.com

Sur­vive and ad­vance. That’s the motto the Texas women’s bas­ket­ball team agreed to last week on the eve of the NCAA women’s tour­na­ment. The do-or-die men­tal­ity — a sta­ple dur­ing Karen As­ton’s five years with the Longhorns — may have served as inspiration Sun­day when the sea­son ap­peared to be slip­ping away.

In­stead, Brooke McCarty, Joyner Holmes and UT’s bench ral­lied the Longhorns to an 84-80 sec­ond-round vic­tory over the Wolf­pack be­fore 3,475 fans at the Er­win Cen­ter, their big­gest home crowd of the sea­son.

The third-seeded Longhorns (25-8) sur­vived and ad­vanced to the Sweet 16 for the third straight year.

They will play in Lex­ing­ton, Ky., on Fri­day and, if they win, next Sun­day for the right to play in the Fi­nal Four for the first time since 2003.

“It’s the stan­dard,” said McCarty, speak­ing about the team’s re­cent suc­cess in the NCAA Tour­na­ment.

The Big 12’s player of the year played one of the best games of her ca­reer, scor­ing a team-high 23 points to lead the come­back. Holmes, who ad­mit­tedly hit a “fresh­man wall” in the reg­u­lar sea­son, con­trib­uted 16 points and nine re­bounds, in­clud­ing a clutch bucket in the clos­ing sec­onds to seal the deal.

As­ton agreed with McCarty, say­ing Texas now has a stan­dard of ex­cel­lence that might not have ex­isted when she was hired in 2012.

“When you re­cruit play­ers that have a per­sonal stan­dard to be the best, it helps you get to where you need to be,” she said.

In this case, the Longhorns will find them­selves in Lex­ing­ton, site of the 1986 Fi­nal Four they cap­tured.

The vic­tory was filled with many crit­i­cal fac­tors and mo­ments dur­ing a fre­netic fourth quar­ter:

Texas helped its fourth-quar­ter come­back by hit­ting 11 of 12 free throws in the pe­riod.

The Longhorns, trail­ing by six points when the quar­ter be­gan, took the lead for good, 79-78, when McCarty sank a pair of free throws with 1:03 to play.

McCarty went to the line af­ter Wolf­pack guard Miah Spencer com­mit­ted her fifth foul. Play­ing in her fi­nal col­le­giate game, North Carolina State’s se­nior guard scored a ca­reer-high 31 points.

With Texas cling­ing to an 81-80 lead, North Carolina State guard Do­minique Wil­son made a driv­ing bank shot to give her team an ap­par­ent lead, but she was whis­tled for a foul af­ter charg­ing into Holmes.

Wil­son and Wolf­pack coach Wes Moore ques­tioned the call.

“The refs called a charge even though (Holmes) was still mov­ing,” Wil­son said. As­ton dis­agreed. “I did look at it (on a TV re­play). She (Holmes) was set,” the coach said.

North Carolina State, forced to foul, sent Lashann Higgs to the line with 7.4 sec­onds to play. She made one of two from the stripe, but Holmes re­bounded the miss and scored a bucket that com­pleted the scor­ing for both teams.

As­ton cor­rectly gave credit to a UT bench that outscored North Carolina State’s 29-5, in­clud­ing Higgs (12 points) and fresh­man Ale­cia Sut­ton (10 points, 3 as­sists). Sut­ton suf­fered a thigh bruise and missed most of the fourth quar­ter, but said she will be ready for the Sweet 16 matchup against the win­ner of Mon­day’s Stan­ford-Kansas State game.

Texas stood tall in the paint, win­ning the re­bound­ing bat­tle for the 30th time in 33 games, 41-28. The Horns also had an 8-0 edge on blocked shots, six by Lang.

This was a per­fect end­ing for Texas se­niors Kelsey Lang and Brianna Tay­lor, play­ing for the fi­nal time be­fore their home fans. On Feb. 24, the Longhorns lost their fi­nal reg­u­lar-sea­son home game to Iowa State, a night the se­niors would like to for­get.

“To­day it was Se­nior Night Part 2,” Tay­lor said.

CON­TRIB­UTED BY DUSTIN SAFRANEK

Jor­dan Hosey sets a pick for Brooke McCarty as the Texas Longhorns drive to an 84-80 vic­tory over North Carolina State to ad­vance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Women’s Tour­na­ment on Sun­day at the Er­win Cen­ter.

CON­TRIB­UTED BY DUSTIN SAFRANEK

Joyner Holmes draws a charge on N.C. State’s Do­minique Wil­son in the last few sec­onds to help Texas ad­vance to Sweet 16.

CON­TRIB­UTED BY DUSTIN SAFRANEK

Ale­cia Sut­ton makes a shot against Wolf­pack de­fend­ers as Texas ad­vances to the third round of the NCAA Tour­na­ment.

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