DALLAS, Texas – The Bulldogs did it again.
Morgan William’s jumper as time expired lifted Mississippi State to a stunning 66-64 overtime win against top-ranked Connecticut in the semifinal round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament played before a crowd of 19,202 at American Airlines Arena.
MSU (34-4) will face Southeastern Conference rival South Carolina (32-4) at 5 p.m. Sunday in the national championship game. The contest will be shown nationally on ESPN. It is MSU’s first-ever appearance in the women’s basketball national championship game and the school’s second appearance in a team sport national championship contest in four years, coming on the heels of baseball playing for the 2013 title.
“During the timeout, Coach [Schaefer] told us I was going to win this game,” William said. “At the end of regulation, I went for the layup and got it blocked. So in overtime, I didn’t want to do that again. I wanted to take a different shot. I am still in shock that we won this game. I am so proud of my teammates.
“The coaches prepared us. We had so much confidence going into the game. We just went out there and fought.”
MSU snapped UConn’s 111-game winning streak. The Huskies had won the last four national championship games. It was UConn’s first loss since Nov. 17, 2014.
This night was going to be different and would belong to the Bulldogs. MSU started strong and not intimidated, quickly building a 16-point lead. A spirited UConn rally put the Huskies ahead three with 2:30 left in regulation.
“We were playing the greatest team in the history of the sport,” MSU head coach Vic Schaefer said. “We just had to beat them one time. We put this all together in three days. It is never easy for us. There is always something that comes up that makes things more difficult. These kids were ready for this moment.
“At the end, we got the shot we wanted. The person we wanted taking it was taking it. These are the types of kids that we want in our program. They want to be in this moment.”
MSU had a chance in the closing seconds of regulation but could not convert. William made amends for that in the overtime session. Overall, UConn led for less than three minutes in the contest.
Victoria Vivians led the Bulldogs with 19 points but fouled out with 3:57 left in overtime. William added 13 points, while Breanna Richardson had 12 points and Teaira McCowan had 10 points and a team-high eight rebounds. McCowan played a key role with a size advantage against the Huskies. She overcame two early fouls to impact the second half and overtime.
The Bulldogs scored the final seven points of the first quarter to lead 22-13 after one quarter. Vivians hit a layup to cap what would eventually be a 14-0 run for a 29-13 lead with 7:19 left in the half.
After UConn closed within five at 31-26, Vivians scored five straight points to push the lead to 36-26 with 1:52 left in the half.
The Bulldogs hit five first-half 3-pointers and led 36-28 at halftime.
UConn used a 12-1 run to grab its first lead at 40-39 with 6:14 left in the third quarter. The Bulldogs regained their composure and things stayed tight the rest of the way.
The Bulldogs scored back-to-back baskets to grab a 56-52 lead with 3:57 left. The Huskies followed with the game’s next seven points. The Bulldogs then reclaimed a lead at 60-59 with a 3-pointer from Vivians with 1:14 left in regulation.
For the contest, MSU hit 25 of 67 shots from the field (37.3 percent), 6 of 22 shots from 3-point range (27.3 percent) and 10 of 13 shots from the foul line (76.9 percent). UConn hit 20 of 46 shots from the field (43.5 percent), 7 of 15 shots from 3-point range (46.7 percent) and 17 of 25 shots from the foul line (68.0 percent).
MSU held a 37-31 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 11 assists and 14 turnovers, while the Huskies had 11 assists and 17 turnovers.
UConn placed four players in double figures. Gabby Williams had 21 points, while Katie Lou Samuelson had 15 points, Napheesa Collier had 11 points and Saniya Chong had 10 points.