AUSTIN, Texas -- Crystal Dangerfield wanted the ball.
More important, her All-American and all-conference award winning teammates with the University of Connecticut women's basketball team 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 on Monday.
"I got her the ball as fast as I could because I knew she would make those two," UConn All-American Katie Lou Samuelson said. "I trust her. It's not the easiest thing to do to make those, but we were confident because we knew how consistent she's been in pressure situations in practice and games this season. It's not based on last year. It's what she's done this year and it's been crucial for us. She shows her toughness each day."
Dangerfield played the whole 40 minutes and finished with 11 points. Samuelson had a game-high 19 points, however 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, native's free throws hit nothing but net.
"It's being calm, knowing I can make those shots, and knowing that I've done it a thousand times," Dangerfield said. "The confidence came from the work we do in practice. We'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."
Azura Stevens came off the bench for 16 points and Kia Nurse chipped in 13 for the Huskies (16-0), who improved to 8-0 all-time against the Longhorns and 16-4 when playing on the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday.
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).
"The atmosphere was great and we knew it would be like this," Dangerfield said. "Their fans were loud and we needed to be able to settle down when they went on their runs. We needed a game like this."
UConn, which trailed by as many as 10 in the first quarter, took a six-point lead to the fourth quarter. After Texas opened the period with seven straight points, All-American Gabby Williams hit a jumper and finished a drive to give the Huskies the lead for good.
A lead that was tenuous at best.
Stevens gave UConn a 71-68 edge with 2:42 left. A lob pass from Dangerfield to Stevens made it a five-point lead with 1:35 to go.
Audrey-Ann Caron Goudreau scored for Texas 18 seconds later and got the ball back but couldn't convert. Samuelson, an 83-percent career free throw shooter (80 percent this season), then almost unbelievably missed two at the line with 15.8 seconds remaining. After Caron-Goudreau made one of two free throws to make it a two-point game, the Huskies successfully inbounded the ball and it eventually ended up in Dangerfield's hands as Texas took its time to foul.
"One particular play doesn't lose a game but you can make one play to win it," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "We had a couple of those tonight."
A year ago, Dangerfield went 1-for-2 at the line in the final seconds at Florida State that allowed the Seminoles a chance at a game-winning 3-pointer, and missed two with 4 seconds left at Tulane that gave the Green Wave a desperation shot to tie.
But as been her story all season, what a difference a year makes.
"Your approach changes more than anything," Williams said. "It's amazing how much a different approach can change your entire game. I said this in Houston on Saturday, Crystal's always been super-talented and has always been strong and athletic. But the way she's approached every game and every practice, the amount of discipline she's shown has changed. It shows in her results."
Texas used its size advantage to win the battle of the boards 36-30, as the Longhorns' Caron-Goudreau and UConn's Williams shared game honors with 11. Williams also had six assists.
The contest was the second of a two-deal between the schools. The Huskies defeated the Longhorns at Mohegan Sun Arena a season ago.
"It came down to a possession game, which we will for sure learn some lessons from," Texas coach Karen Aston said. "We talked about this game being a good measure of who we are and who we can be. As a coach, and as a fan of Texas basketball, you would hope that this is who this group is all the time."
UConn played uphill for most of the first half, leading for all of 30 seconds.
After Dangerfield opened the scoring, 3-pointers by McCarty and Atkins followed by a Higgs hoop made it 8-2. Another set of treys by Atkins and McCarty and another Higgs hoop gave the Longhorns their biggest lead of the half at 20-10. Samuelson scored the last five points of the first quarter, including a 3 right before the buzzer, to cut the Huskies' gap to 24-21.
Two free throws by Nurse gave UConn its first lead since 2-0 at 29-28 with 4:18 to go in the half. Texas responded with the next nine points, including six by White, to regain an eight-point lead. But the Huskies had an answer of their own. Dangerfield and Samuelson nailed treys, and following a free throw by Higgs, a basket by Nurse and All-American Napheesa Collier's first hoop following an offensive rebound and pass by Williams with 2 seconds to go made it 39-38 for UConn at the break.
Collier eventually fouled out while Stevens and Nurse played the final minutes with four fouls each. Auriemma used only six players.
"We're a better team for this," Williams said. "This is the first time we've played in an environment like this. We got a challenge and we got past it and we're better for it."
UConn still has non-league games left, at South Carolina on Feb. 1 and against Louisville in Storrs on Feb. 12. Next for the Huskies is American Athletic Conference foe Tulsa on Thursday (SNY, 7 p.m.) at Gampel Pavilion.