3:30 PM ET, November 25, 2005
FREEPORT, Bahamas (AP) -- The Texas players ran to the court when the buzzer sounded, jumping, cheering and treating their victory over South Carolina like a Final Four triumph instead of a first-round win at the Junkanoo Jam."It was exciting to us because we hadn't won like that yet," said Nina Norman, one of the few seniors on a team filled with newcomers.Two first-year players, Erika Arriaran and Ashley Lindsey, had a large impact in the No. 18 Longhorns 59-55 victory over the Gamecocks.Arriaran had a team-high 14 points, including the basket that put Texas (2-1) ahead for good, and Lindsey had a key block down the stretch to save the Longhorns in a game where star Tiffany Jackson was saddled with foul problems and scored just eight points.Growing pains could be with the Longhorns for a while since coach Jody Conradt signed seven freshmen, her largest group of newbies in 30 seasons at Texas.Norman said the problems of blending so many new players were evident last week when Texas lost its opener to New Mexico, 76-68."It's tough out there. They used to be the best player in high school where nobody could really touch them," Norman said. "But now average players are sticking with them. They're learning how to play the game, but it's a little hard being new."It looked like things wouldn't do so well for the Longhorns in this one, either.South Carolina (2-1) seemed a step quicker at first, taking a 7-point lead in the opening half with Jackson on the bench.Arriaran helped in the second-half rally with two jumpers in a 10-2 run that put Texas ahead 43-41. Still, the Longhorns trailed 55-52 after Ilona Burgrova's inside shot with 4:26 to go.That's when Arriaran struck for two more baskets to send Texas in front, 56-55.In the final minute, South Carolina had its best chance when Lauren Simms drove the lane for what looked like an uncontested basket. But the 6-foot-4 Lindsey got her hand up to stop it."That was the shot. That's what we wanted," South Carolina coach Susan Walvius said.Lindsey added a free throw and Norman added two for Texas' final margin.The Longhorns meet George Washington, a 49-47 winner over No. 19 Purdue to start the two-day holiday tournament, on Saturday."This win will go a long way to help our team get to a point of cohesiveness and the kind of chemistry that we need," Conradt said.South Carolina will face the Boilermakers on Saturday.Norman had 13 points for the Longhorns, while Lindsey had eight points, 10 rebounds and five blocksJackson finished with eight points on 4-of-9 shooting. Conradt tried everything she could think of to get her best player going, even drawing a technical foul in the second half as she protested to officials on what she thought was an uncalled foul on Jackson."I think Tiffany learned a lesson," Conradt said.Soon, everyone who follows Texas basketball could learn that these youngsters can really play."We're getting there," Texas' Norman said. "That's why it was so good to see this."