With 2.5 seconds left and his team trailing by a point, Leon Barmore's coaching future hinged on the nerves of a freshman.
Luckily for Barmore, she had plenty.
Catrina Frierson calmly sank two free throws, and Louisiana Tech escaped with a 66-65 victory over Vanderbilt in the Midwest Regional on Monday night, keeping Barmore as its coach for at least one more game.
''That was pretty scary all right. But if you want to be a big player, you have to make big plays."
Louisiana Tech freshman
''That was pretty scary all right,'' Frierson admitted. ''But if you want to be a big player, you have to make big plays.''
Frierson came through after the top-seeded Lady Techsters blew an 11-point second-half lead in the final home game of Barmore's storied 18-year head coaching career at Tech.
It almost was his last game, period, but the Lady Techsters (30-2) survived to play another day in the regional semifinals. Barmore announced last week he would retire when Tech's tournament run ends.
''Coach told me just to relax,'' Frierson said. ''He said he knew I could make them, and I did.''
The two other No. 1 seeds playing Monday night, Tennessee in the Mideast and Georgia in the West, also kept their title hopes alive. But Purdue's run at a second consecutive championship is over, ended by a 76-74 loss at home to Oklahoma, which trailed at one time by 17.
Tennessee, winner of six national championships, beat Arizona 75-60, and Georgia defeated Stanford 83-64. Connecticut, the top seeded team in the East, advanced with an 83-45 victory over Clemson on Sunday night.
In other games Monday, Duke beat Western Kentucky 90-70 in the East; Texas Tech downed Tulane 76-59 in the Mideast; Old Dominion defeated Southern Methodist 96-76 in the Midwest and North Carolina beat Rice 83-50 in the West.
Three of the top 16 seeds failed to advance to the regional semifinals after all 16 made it last year. Those losing were Purdue, seeded fourth in the East; third-seeded Mississippi State in the West; and fourth-seeded Cal Santa Barbara in the West.
In the regional semifinals, all Saturday night, it will be Connecticut vs. Oklahoma and Duke vs. LSU in the East at Richmond, Va.; Tennessee vs. Virginia and Texas Tech vs. Notre Dame in the Mideast at Memphis; Louisiana Tech vs. Old Dominion and Penn State vs. Iowa State in the Midwest at Kansas City; and Georgia vs. North Carolina and Rutgers vs. Alabama-Birmingham in the West.
Louisiana Tech fans saluted Barmore when he walked onto the court Monday, chanting his name and waving signs that read ''Thanks for the Memories Leon,'' and ''We love you Leon.''
Afterwards, fans again chanted Barmore's name until he returned to the court to acknowledge them.
''It was a great crowd,'' he said. ''They helped us with a really tough win. We've played teams in the Final Four that weren't as good as Vanderbilt. That's how much this game has improved.''
Frierson led Louisiana Tech with 18 points. Chantelle Anderson scored 23 for ninth-seeded Vanderbilt (21-13).
Fifth-seeded Oklahoma rallied against Purdue after trailing 42-25 in the first half and 59-46 with 11 minutes left. LaNeishea Caufield, who led Oklahoma (25-7) with 26 points, sank two free throws with 1:03 left to give the Sooners a 73-32 lead, and they held on.
''They never lost faith,'' said coach Sherri Coale, who turned Oklahoma into a winner after a 5-22 season in 1996-97. ''They never doubted they would win.''
Camille Cooper scored a career-high 34 points for Purdue (23-8).
At Durham, N.C.
Duke 90, Western Kentucky 70
Second-seeded Duke (28-5), the national runner-up last year, got 25 points each from Georgia Schweitzer and freshman Sheana Mosch to make the regional semifinals for the third straight year. ShaRae Mansfield scored 21 for 10th-seeded Western Kentucky (22-9), which had only nine active players.
At Knoxville, Tenn.
Tennessee 75, Arizona 60
All-American Tamika Catchings scored 21 points to lead Tennessee, which never trailed after she scored for a 4-3 lead. The Lady Vols were so quick in transition that Arizona did not score a single fast-break point. Angela Lackey had 13 points for eighth-seeded Arizona (25-7).
At Lubbock, Texas
Texas Tech 76, Tulane 59
Keitha Dickerson's running 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer gave Texas Tech (27-4) a 36-24 lead, and the third-seeded Lady Raiders kept Tulane at bay in the second half. Plenette Pierson led Tech with 19 points. Aleah Johnson, Katrisa O'Neal and Tanisha Ellison each scored 12. Grace Daley had 24 for sixth-seeded Tulane (27-5).
At Norfolk, Va.
Old Dominion 96, SMU 76
Lucienne Berthieu scored 22 points and Hamchetou Maiga grabbed 20 rebounds as fourth-seeded Old Dominion (29-4) reached the round of 16 for the fifth straight year. D-dra Rucker's 27 points led 12th-seeded SMU (22-9), which upset fifth-seeded North Carolina State in the first round.
At Athens, Ga.
Georgia 83, Stanford 64
The Lady Bulldogs (31-2) were simply too quick for eight-seeded Stanford and set a school record for victories. Deana Nolan led Georgia with 20 points, and Coco Miller scored 19. Jamie Carey led Stanford (21-9) with 15 points.
At Santa Barbara, Calif.
North Carolina 83, Rice 50
LaQuanda Barksdale scored 27 points and Nikki Teasley had 16 points and nine assists as the Tar Heels (20-12) won for the eighth time in nine games. Fifth-seeded North Carolina never trailed and took control early, going on a 15-0 run to open 38-15 lead. Marla Brumfield led 13th-seeded Rice (22-12) with 14 points.
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