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WOMEN'S NCAA TOURNAMENT: Georgia beats FSU in final seconds; UConn keeps steamrolling

Photo by Dave Martin

Photo by Dave Martin

AUBURN, Ala. -- Jasmine James made sure she was in the right spot to keep Georgia's season going even as a phantom whistle left Florida State crying foul.

James scored on a putback with 2.9 seconds left, then made the subsequent free throw to lift the Lady Bulldogs (22-10) to a 61-59 victory over the Seminoles on Tuesday night and into the round of 16 of the NCAA tournament for the second straight year.

The 5-foot-9 James caught the ball in midair after a missed jumper by Porsha Phillips, tossed it in and drew a foul.

"At that point, everything was on the line," she said. "I wasn't really thinking about how much space there was down there. I was just trying to get down there, find the ball and put it back in. It came off on my side, and I was able to get it."

Defender Cierra Bravard appeared to stop and look at a referee just before Phillips' shot, and she and teammate Alexa Deluzio both said they thought they heard a whistle. So did coach Sue Semrau, who gave the officials an earful after the play.

"I heard a whistle. I looked away as well," Semrau said. "They said they thought it was a squeaking shoe. I didn't know if it was correctable or not. It is unfortunate, but I think things would have been different because the rebound was had after that."

A statement from the officiating crew said "there was no inadvertent whistle" and the only thing reviewed during a stoppage of play was time left on the clock. They added 0.8 seconds.

"I thought I heard a whistle, but the last play didn't lose us the game," Deluzio said. "I feel like it happened in the second half when we let up a little bit."

The final chance came after Georgia's Meredith Mitchell forced a jump ball following another miss. Florida State (24-8) didn't get another shot off as Christian Hunnicutt's pass to Courtney Ward at midcourt went out of bounds as time expired.

The Seminoles didn't have a field goal over the final 10 minutes after taking a 10-point lead. Then Georgia started to regroup.

"Coach kind of in a timeout said a few things to get us back fired up," Anne Marie Armstrong said. "I don't want to say we were giving in, but it looked like we were dead for a little bit there. After that timeout, we picked it up, fought, made some plays on defense."

Georgia, which had lost four of its last five games coming in, plays Texas A&M on Sunday night in the regional semifinals in Dallas. It's the 19th time the Lady Bulldogs have made it this far but it's not quite enough yet for longtime coach Andy Landers.

"What really excites me is Final Fours, if you want to know the truth, and the rest of this stuff is part of the process," he said. "If you've ever been to a Final Four, that's what lights your fire."

Armstrong scored 15 points and James had 14 for the Lady Bulldogs.

Khaalidah Miller scored 11 points and Mitchell had 10. Miller and Armstrong both hit three 3-pointers, but James supplied the biggest play.

"She's a gutty kid, she's a confident kid," Landers said. "She'll put it out there. She's fearless."

Bravard led the Seminoles with 19 points and 10 rebounds for a team that made the regional finals last season. Courtney Ward scored 12 points, all on second-half 3-pointers, and tied her own team postseason record with nine assists.

Deluzio added 11 points.

Florida State took a 59-58 lead when Deluzio hit the second of two free throws with 35 seconds left. Landers had called timeout after her first attempt rimmed out.

Then, Phillips missed a jumper and Bravard grabbed the rebound but Mitchell forced the jump ball, allowing the Lady Bulldogs another shot -- or two.

Florida State had raced to a 51-41 lead when Ward hit her fourth 3-pointer of the half after going scoreless in the first.

The Lady Bulldogs surged back with a 14-2 run keyed by a James 3-pointer and three jumpers by Mitchell. The Seminoles only managed 10 more points, all at the free throw line.

They shot 30 percent in the second half and were 13 of 23 from the free throw line in the game. Florida State also committed 19 turnovers.

"I feel like we stopped attacking," Deluzio said. "In the first half, we went at them. We drew fouls and got to the line. We were finishing shots. We were getting offensive rebounds. In the second half, I feel like we played on our heels."