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Sunday, Aug 31, 2014
USF Bulls

Williams’ late heroics lift USF to WNIT win

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Sophomore guard Courtney Williams raced down the court with an inbounds pass, then buried a 3-pointer at the buzzer on Sunday night, giving the University of South Florida Bulls a heart-stopping 60-58 victory against the Mississippi State Bulldogs in a WNIT quarterfinal game at Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville, Miss.

“It was so exciting,’’ said Williams, who had 13 points. “I’ll never forget this feeling — ever.’’

USF (23-12) advanced to the WNIT semifinals, held on Wednesday or Thursday, against the winner of tonight’s game between Rutgers and Bowling Green. It’s not known whether USF would host or travel.

The WNIT championship game is Saturday at a campus site.

Mississippi State (22-14) surged ahead on a layup by first-team All-SEC center Martha Alwal with 4.2 seconds remaining, although the clock didn’t immediately stop and officials had to huddle to determine how much time was left. That effectively gave USF a free timeout and Bulls coach Jose Fernandez quickly designed an out-of-bounds play to get it in the hands of Williams.

With Alisia Jenkins handling the inbounds play, USF ran a misdirection, initially looking like Shalethia Stringfield (career-high 20 points, 16 in the second half) was coming off a double-screen set by Inga Orekhova and Akila McDonald. Instead, Jenkins passed to Williams, who ran free up the right side.

She stopped on the right wing, just behind the 3-point arc.

“I think my arm got nudged (by a Bulldog defender), but I let it fly,’’ Williams said. “I knew it was good. As soon as I let it go, I just started running the other way. I was so happy.’’

Fernandez said he was gratified that the Bulls pulled out a victory, particularly in the face of severe foul trouble. Williams, McDonald and Orekhova each played with four fouls in the game’s closing minutes.

“Our backs were against the wall and our true character came out,’’ Fernandez said.

“I think by now people realize what kind of team we have,’’ Fernandez said. “We just want to keep winning until there are no more games to play. That’s our goal.’’

jjohnston@tampatrib.com

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Twitter: @JJohnstonTBO

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