6:00 PM ET, March 12, 2009
Missouri succumbs to Texas' pressure as Raven hits winner in final minute
OKLAHOMA CITY -- With what she had been through a day earlier, a late seven-point deficit wasn't going to faze Texas' Earnesia Williams.After surviving a scary, rollover crash on her way to her internship a day earlier, Williams was the point person for the pressure that guided the Longhorns (No. 21 ESPN/USA Today, No. 23 AP) to a 62-59 victory against Missouri in the first round of the Big 12 tournament Thursday night."I'm glad to be here and alive and just to play like that for my team and help us advance to another game is just a blessing," Williams said, fighting off tears.Williams had her first career double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds and provided the front line of the defense that forced the Tigers (13-17) into three straight flubbed inbounds passes as Texas wiped out a 59-52 deficit in a matter of 4 seconds.Brittainey Raven then connected on a running layup in the lane with 22.8 seconds left to win it for Texas before Kathleen Nash provided the final point on a last-second free throw.The sixth-seeded Longhorns (21-10) will face Iowa State (No. 19 ESPN/USA Today, No. 18 AP) in the quarterfinals Friday.Williams said she was driving on a wet stretch of winding, hilly road in Austin on Wednesday morning when she lost control of her car and it slid across the center line and then back across her lane into a rock wall before flipping over. Two passers by had to pull her out of the car, which came to rest upside down."Not many people make it out of something like that, so I'm just glad to be here," Williams said.Williams, who was checked out by an ambulance at the scene and later by team doctors as she sat out practice, said she only had a scratch on her hand."I just prayed and I guess God has different plans for me, so I'm still here. I'm just going to live my life and do what I was doing before the accident," Williams said.And perhaps do it even better.Williams' defense rescued the Longhorns from a fourth straight loss and a sixth in their last seven games as they try to jockey for position in the NCAA tournament.Missouri, which last season became the first No. 12 seed to win an opening round game against a fifth-seeded opponent, was in prime position for a stunner as a No. 11 seed after a 7-0 run made up entirely of free throws.Alyssa Hollins led the way with 16 points for the Tigers, who held Texas to a season-low 28.3 percent shooting.Williams made up for that late, though, when she hit a pair of free throws and then grabbed a deflected inbounds pass and turned it into a three-point play. Carla Cortijo hit a layup off the next steal, tying the game before Raven's game-winner."I've always called her my warrior, and I thought she played like a warrior tonight," Longhorns coach Gail Goestenkors said. "She really willed us to win with all of her hustle plays."Kathleen Nash added 16 points and 13 rebounds, and Raven finished with 11 points while coming off the bench for the second straight game after starting the first 29.Jessra Johnson added 11 points and 13 rebounds for the Tigers, and Shakara Jones also scored 11.Missouri was the first to emerge from a shooting funk that had both teams combine for a 9-for-38 start from the field, and the Tigers led 29-19 late in the first half. Texas rallied back to take the lead several times before Missouri pulled ahead late, even without hitting a basket for the final 7:57."There's not a lot to say. It's tough," Missouri coach Cindy Stein said. "Honestly, it's tough. They knew how many timeouts we had, they knew we needed spacing, they knew we just needed to get the ball in."It's tough. It happens. It's those bam-bam plays. They just happen so quick."
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