UConn avoids elimination with 86-84 win over Xavier
Posted: Monday March 15, 1999 01:05 AM
STORRS, Conn. (AP) -- Tamika Williams pulled down her two biggest boards of the season Sunday night, and then coolly hit a pair of free throws to keep the top-seeded Connecticut Huskies in the NCAA tournament.
The freshman's foul shots came with seven seconds left and lifted UConn to an 86-84 Mideast Regional second-round win over Xavier.
"I just tried to stay settled in the huddle," said Williams, who finished with 19 points. "I wanted to take my time, take a deep breath and follow through."
The win nullified a nearly flawless performance by Musketeer point guard Nikki Kremer, who finished with 23 points.
Kremer was 8-of-10 from the line, missing her only two free throws with 38 seconds left with the score tied at 84. Williams grabbed the second miss to give the Huskies their game-winning possession. UConn's Shea Ralph missed a baseline jumper with 12 seconds left, teammate Amy Duran's couldn't convert the putback and Williams grabbed the loose ball and was fouled going up for the shot.
"People forget Amy [Duran] got the big rebound and threw it up there. If she doesn't make that effort, I would never have a chance," Williams said.
UConn (29-4) outrebounded the Musketeers 39-28, led by Williams' nine boards. She came into the game averaging 6.7 boards.
Her final baskets gave the Huskies their first lead since midway through the first half, sending UConn to the round of 16.
Down 80-76 with 4:50 remaining, UConn got within two on a layup by Asjha Jones. Baskets by Katie Griggs and Kim Hotz boosted the Musketeer lead to 84-78 with 2:17 left.
A Williams' layup with 59 seconds left keyed UConn's 8-0 to end the game.
Kremer's effort tied her career best. The senior point guard entered the tournament with the second best assist percentage in the nation with 8.7 assists per game. She was 6-of-11 from the floor and hit 3-of-4 3-pointers.
The misses with the game on the line, she said will haunt her.
"Those free throws will be with me for some time," she said. "I wanted to be there. I wanted to shoot those free throws."
The No. 8-seed Musketeers (24-9) proved earlier on they could run with UConn's up-tempo style and consistently got through the Husky press.
"The never game us a chance to go on a run because they wouldn't miss enough shots and we got frustrated," said UConn coach Geno Auriemma.
The Musketeers took advantage of UConn's 14 first-half turnovers, getting 11 points off the miscues. Kremer got 17 of her points in the period, including eight in a 16-4 run midway through the half that put Xavier up 33-24.
UConn countered with a 12-7 run in the final five minutes, getting four points each from Williams and Swin Cash and closing the gap to 40-36 at the half.
"This is a tough way to lose," said Xavier coach Melanie Balcomb. "UConn turned up the pressure and we did not execute."
Shea Ralph had 16 points for UConn. Nicole Levandusky added 15 for Xavier.
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