AUSTIN, Texas - When the UConn womenâ€™s basketball team lost to Mississippi State last March 31, Crystal Dangerfield could only watch the heartbreaking end from the bench.
She was determined the next time the Huskiesâ€™ needed a play to be made to win a game, she would be on the floor ready to help get it done.
â€śSheâ€™s talked to me about this several times, and when she does itâ€™s about how little she was able to contribute at crunch time last year,â€ť UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. â€śShe was not happy about it. She talked about how she wasted a lot of her freshman year. That wasnâ€™t going to happen again. Things donâ€™t change unless you make a concerted effort to change them and she has.â€ť
With UConn trying to protect a two-point lead in the final minute against Texas Monday night, Dangerfield wanted the ball. More important, her All-American and all-conference award winning teammates wanted her to have it as well.
The sophomore point guard sank two free throws with 8.3 seconds to give her team a two-possession lead and No. 1 UConn survived an inspired effort from ninth-ranked Texas to take home a 75-71 non-league win before an announced crowd of 11,877 at the Frank Erwin Center.
â€śI got her the ball as fast as I could because I knew she would make those two,â€ť UConn All-American Katie Lou Samuelson said. â€śI trust her. Itâ€™s not the easiest thing to do to make those, but we were confident because we knew how consistent sheâ€™s been in pressure situations in practice and games this season. Itâ€™s not based on last year. Itâ€™s what sheâ€™s done this year and itâ€™s been crucial for us. She shows her toughness each day.â€ť
Dangerfield played 40 minutes and finished with 11 points. Samuelson had a game-high 19 points but had missed two free throws seconds earlier that would have given the Huskies a little room for comfort.
But with the eyes of the 12th largest crowd in Texas history and a national television audience on her, the Murfreesboro, Tennessee, nativeâ€™s free throws hit nothing but net.
â€śItâ€™s being calm, knowing I can make those shots, and knowing that Iâ€™ve done it a thousand times,â€ť Dangerfield said. â€śThe confidence came from the work we do in practice. Weâ€™ve done it so many times that I remembered what it felt like to be successful I went up there confidently and saw it through the basket.
â€śIt feels good going into our huddle and knowing that thereâ€™s trust there. I get confidence from the other four on the floor with me. I know someone will make a play whether itâ€™s me, Lou, Kia Nurse ... That comes from our work in practice.â€ť
Azura Stevens came off the bench for 16 points and Nurse chipped in 13 for the Huskies (16-0), who are 16-4 when playing on the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday. All-American Gabby Williams had nine points, 11 rebounds, and six assists.
Jatarie White had 18 points for Texas (14-3) and was joined in double figures by Brooke McCarty (14), Ariel Atkins (14), and Lashann Higgs (13).
â€śThe atmosphere was great and we knew it would be like this,â€ť Dangerfield said. â€śTheir fans were loud and we needed to be able to settle down when they went on their runs. We needed a game like this.â€ť