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NCAA Women’s Tournament: Texas slips past NC State, heads to Sweet 16

North Carolina State guard Lucky Rudd (15) walks

North Carolina State guard Lucky Rudd (15) walks off the the court as Texas guard Ariel Atkins (23), center Kelsey Lang (40) and teammates celebrate their win in a second-round game in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament, Sunday, March 19, 2017, in Austin, Texas. Texas won 84-80. Photo Credit: AP / Eric Gay

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas coach Karen Aston came to the Longhorns five years ago with a goal of setting a new standard of excellence for the program. Three straight trips to the Sweet 16 set a pretty nice bar.

Brooke McCarty scored 23 points and the No. 3-seed Longhorns got a put-back basket from Joyner Holmes with 4 seconds left to the send them to thrilling 84-80 win Sunday over No. 6 North Carolina State, earning another trip deep into the NCAA Tournament in the Lexington Regional.

“Stringing along these Sweet 16s, it’s the standard here,” McCarty said. “This is what you do. You come here to do this.”

This one took some big plays and big shots from the Big 12 player of the year to dig the Longhorns out from a second-half deficit and carry the Longhorns past two outstanding scoring efforts from North Carolina State guards Miah Spencer and Dominique Wilson. Spencer scored 31 and Wilson scored 27 for the Wolfpack.

But Spencer fouled out with 1 minute left when she tangled with McCarty away from the ball and Wilson’s go-ahead basket with 8 seconds left was waived off on a charging call.

McCarty said she was trying to tangle up Spencer to get her out of the game. Her two free throws after the foul gave Texas the lead for good at 79-78.

“We knew she had four fouls,” McCarty said. “I tried to engage her as much as I could.”

After Spencer went to the bench fighting off tears, Wilson had what she thought was the shot to win, only to hear the whistle go against her. Texas’ Lashann Higgs then made one free throw for an 82-80 Texas lead but missed the second. Holmes grabbed the rebound, missed her first shot, then made the second to seal the win. Holmes finished with 16 points and nine rebounds.

North Carolina State (23-9) missed going to its first Sweet 16 since 2007.

“It just hurts. You feel helpless,” Wilson said.

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