The No. 6 seed Texas Longhorns did everything they needed to do, getting clutch play from their guards, a rebounding margin of plus-one and a defensive effort that held the best scoring offense in the nation in check, to defeat the No. 2 seed Maryland Terrapins 64-61 on Sunday night in San Antonio.
It was a nail-biter, though.
Texas’ Celeste Taylor made a deep two to tie it with 59 seconds remaining and Kyra Lambert followed with a fast break layup off a Lauren Ebo steal to give Texas a two-point lead with 44 ticks left. Lambert and Taylor then combined to go 2-of-4 from the line and Texas was left with a four-point lead with 14.3 seconds to go. Maryland’s Ashley Owusu then drove hard to the basket and missed a tough layup.
After that Ebo made a free throw to make it a five-point Longhorn advantage and Diamond Miller’s layup with 0.1 seconds left was not enough for Maryland.
Projected No. 1 WNBA Draft pick Charli Collier quietly led the way for Texas with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Taylor added 15 points and 11 boards, while Joanne Allen-Taylor had 14 points and five assists for the winners.
Miller had a game-high 21 points and added eight boards in defeat.
Texas won even though one of its key players in Audrey Warren had to leave after her head hit floor with 4:50 to play.
With 5:07 to go in the third, Allen-Taylor made a huge three to cut Texas’ deficit to one. It was at the end of a long stretch where the Longhorns went away from Collier, who made two free throws a little later to give Texas its first lead of the game at 42-41. The rest of the third was hard-fought and Texas exited up two.
Miller scored Maryland’s first seven points of the second for a 7-3 individual run vs. Texas that opened up a 25-15 Terp lead. However, Texas responded like it had already done earlier in the game with Allen-Taylor making a triple and then knocking down three free throws after being fouled on another three attempt to cut it to 28-23. That’s as close as the Longhorns got in the final 6:34 of the second and they trailed 32-25 at the break.
Maryland got off to a hot start. Sharpshooter Katie Benzan made a 3-pointer just 13 seconds in and the Terps went on to lead 13-2 before Texas stormed back with a 10-0 run thanks to pressure defense, threes from Lambert and Allen and four points from Collier.
Texas advances to face the No. 1 seed South Carolina Gamecocks in the Hemisfair Region final.