Dominique Wilson drove along the left side, kissed a short, running shot off the backboard and into the basket thinking N.C. State had a lead that could send the Wolfpack to the NCAA tournament round of 16 for the first time in 10 years.
A whistle then blew. Free throw for Wilson? Nope. Texas’ Joyner Holmes stepped in front of Wilson, inducing a charging foul call with eight seconds remaining and the Longhorns ahead by one point.
Texas added a free throw by Lashann Higgs and basket by Holmes to survive with an 84-80 victory Sunday in the second round of the Lexington Regional.
The Longhorns (25-8), seeded third in the region, will face either Stanford or Kansas State, which meet on Monday, in their next game.
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Wilson, a senior guard, scored a season-best 27 points, her 15th straight game in double-figures. Wilson figures she should have at least two more points.
“The refs called a charge even though the girl was still moving,” Wilson said. “It’s on them.”
Holmes, a 6-3 freshman, said she could have blocked Wilson’s shot.
“But I took the charge,” Holmes said. “I thought they called the block at first.”
Texas coach Karen Aston said she watched a replay after the play.
“(Holmes) was definitely set,” Aston said.
Texas guard Brooke McCarty scored 10 of her 23 points in the fourth quarter. McCarty, a junior, also made a play that induced N.C. State senior guard Miah Spencer to foul out with 1:03 left after scoring a career-best 31 points. McCarty initiated contact at the Longhorns’ offensive end while moving without the ball, and Spencer responded.
“We knew she had four fouls,” a smiling McCarty said. “I tried to engage with her as much as I could to get that fifth foul.”
McCarty made two free throws. Ariel Atkins then added a basket inside. Texas secured victory when Higgs (12 points) made the first of two free throws with 7.4 seconds left, and when she missed the second, Holmes (16 points) grabbed the rebound and scored with Spencer watching helplessly from the bench. Higgs’ miss was the only one in 12 attempts by Texas in the fourth quarter.
“It’s real heartbreaking, but I’m proud of the way my team fought today,” Spencer said.
Indeed, N.C State (23-9) trailed by 13 after one quarter but attacked Texas on offense with drives by its two all-ACC guards, Spencer and Wilson. The Wolfpack led by eight in the third quarter and by five when the period ended.
N.C. State converted 26 of 29 free throws, with Wilson and Spencer combining to hit 21 of 22. Texas hit 19 of 23. Though the Wolfpack attempted six more than Texas, the one that they didn’t get to shoot, when Wilson was called for the charge, hurt.
“That’s the toughest call in basketball,” NCSU coach Wes Moore said. “Until I see the film, it’s hard for me to really know. I didn’t have a perfect vantage point by any means.”
He had a good one, though for a season in which the Wolfpack defeated four teams ranked in the top 15 in the country.
“It’s a tough (loss), will take a long time to get over,” Moore said. “It’s been a good run. Would have liked for it to last a little bit longer.”