April 3, 2017
Even though another team celebrated under a shower of confetti, the Mississippi State University women’s basketball team had an amazing run. MSU ended the University of Connecticut’s 111-game winning streak in one national semifinal of the Final Four.
The overtime game might be the best basketball game, men’s or women’s, played this year. MSU jumped out to a double-digit lead in the first half and led by eight at halftime.
UConn battled back, tying the game and taking the lead as the middle of the third quarter approached. During the rest of the game, both teams battled each other for the lead as each team answered the other’s runs.
The outcome couldn’t be decided in the 40 minutes of regular time, as Morgan William couldn’t make a game-winning shot in regulation. Both teams were exhausted as they began to play a five-minute overtime period.
On weary legs, MSU’s tiny guard William put the Bulldogs up for good with a game-winning shot as time expired. The Bulldogs outscored the Huskies 6-4 in the five extra minutes.
MSU slayed the biggest giant in either men’s or women’s college basketball. Playing the late game, going into overtime and the post-game interviews pushed the Bulldogs into early morning before they could return to their hotel and finally sleep.
This season’s nemesis, the University of South Carolina awaited MSU in the final. The Gamecocks were responsible for two of the Bulldogs’ four losses heading into the title game.
MSU took down the biggest player in the game but then ran into the one other team that does the same things as well as the Bulldogs left standing. South Carolina plays suffocating defense just like MSU, and the Gamecocks have the length to match the Bulldogs that few other teams possess.
The Bulldogs started the national championship game quickly, but before the first quarter ended, it was plain to see that the team didn’t have the same legs it did against the Huskies. South Carolina didn’t panic when MSU went up early.
Before the first quarter ended, the Gamecocks took the lead and didn’t surrender it the rest of the way. MSU cut the lead four points at times but couldn’t find the energy needed to retake it.
Early foul trouble, cold shooting and slow movement plagued the Bulldogs throughout the game. South Carolina looked quicker, more energetic and rested than MSU. Before the start of the final quarter, it was clear that beating UConn ended up taking everything out of the Bulldogs.
Even the hero of the tournament for MSU, William, ended up riding the bench for the whole fourth quarter. The tank was on empty for the Bulldog with the biggest heart. MSU has plenty of heart, and that is why the Gamecocks didn’t run away with the lead completely until late. They just didn’t have the legs to go 40 minutes.
While there isn’t a championship being delivered in Starkville today, MSU has a ton to celebrate. The program reached its first Elite Eight, Final Four, National Championship Game, beat two No. 1 seeds and broke the greatest winning streak in college basketball history.
The best might be in store for this program, as the core of this team returns next season. MSU returns William, Victoria Vivians, Teaira McCowan (the top three scorers this season) and Blair Schaefer.
Now that the Bulldogs have gotten an inch away from a title, this team will be more experienced for the journey next season. These young women took what they learned from last season’s huge defeat from UConn to beat the Huskies this year.
It wouldn’t be surprising if these women take this title game defeat and learn from it as they raise the title at the end of next season.