Despite heartbreaking loss, Williams’ late heroics gives Longhorns hope moving forward

Stephen Wagner

In a season full of the unpredictable and the unknown, Danni Williams has been one of the few things Karen Aston has been able to rely on consistently.   

Williams has rarely put the ball on the floor this season, particularly in the half-court or driving to the basket. Most of her involvement has been limited to spot-up 3-point shooting coming off of set plays.

In Monday night’s 74-68 defeat to No. 1 Baylor, Williams displayed a new weapon in her arsenal.

Williams converted three James Harden-esque stepback jump shots — one in the first quarter to start the game and two late in the fourth quarter — that had been absent prior to the team’s matchup with the Bears.

“I’ve had (the stepback jumpshot). It just hasn’t come out yet until tonight,” Williams said. “(I’ve) just been trying to find my rhythm. I’m comfortable with taking (big-time and off-the-dribble) shots. The more games that I’m playing here, I’m finding my rhythm.”

Williams finished the night responsible for five of the Longhorns’ nine 3-pointers, tying her season-high in a category that Texas has struggled in this season.

“(Texas) shot the 3-ball,” Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said. “One area that I have not seen them do that they did tonight was shoot the 3-ball. They only averaged four 3s a game. They made nine. Those things you can’t predict. You think they match up (well) with you in the post, will bang with you in the post. Danni (Williams) and Sug’s 3-balls I thought were big for them tonight.”

Williams’ deep sharpshooting was the tale of the game. When she was hot, the game was close. When she was cold, it turned into a blowout.

This was particularly evident in a dreadful third quarter for Texas. Williams struggled as the team watched all of its 3-point attempts clank off the rim during the period while the Baylor lead grew accordingly. What was once a seven-point deficit at halftime ballooned to 21 going into the fourth quarter.

Although the Longhorns’ 3-point shooting declined from their elite first-half numbers, Williams remained persistent.

“Danni was in a really good rhythm tonight, and we needed to try to get her shots,” Texas head coach Karen Aston said. “I thought we did a pretty good job of that, as much as we could.”

With less than five minutes remaining in the game, Williams hit a pair of contested corner 3-pointers that rejuvenated a crowd that was lulled to sleep by the Longhorns’ third-quarter meltdown.

Williams gave the Longhorns the spark they desperately sought in the fourth quarter, scoring eight straight points to give Texas a beam of hope.

As the game winded down, with Texas trying to make a furious comeback in the final minute, guard Sug Sutton brought the ball across half-court with the Longhorns in desperate need of another three.

It was immediately apparent what Texas was trying to do: Get it to the hot hand, Danni Williams. Unfortunately for the Longhorns, Baylor snuffed out their strategy. Williams’ inability to get open forced Aston to call a timeout with less than a minute remaining.

Since Texas was unable to complete its furious rally spurred by Williams late in the game, the Longhorn guard was dissatisfied with the loss despite facing a top-ranked
Baylor squad.

“We’re not here for moral victories,” Williams said.