Monday, 21 August, 2017

South Carolina wins 1st national title, beats Miss St 67-55

Geno Auriemma smile UConn Women Take Next Step Toward Perfection Tonight Vs. Mississippi State
Damon Campbell | 14 April, 2017, 16:25

No. 3/4 SC topped No. 7/7 Mississippi State 67-55 to capture the program's first NCAA Championship Sunday night at the American Airlines Center.

"South Carolina played really good, got to take your hat off to them", head coach Vic Schaefer said after Sunday's loss, "Dawn and her staff did a tremendous job today and those kids played extremely well".

But that victory came in the Final Four on Friday and only got the Bulldogs into the national championship game. Didn't single out or name William, but I guess she was one of them since he was answering a question about her.

If you've never emotionally invested your entire life on rooting for a school that has never won a national championship, then perhaps you wouldn't understand the frenzy.

So I wanted to hear Schaefer's explanation before offering an opinion on what happened. Instead they saw speed and grit and confident shooting developed after years in the gym with her father.

Sunday, the SC duo of A'Ja Wilson (23 points, 10 rebounds) and Allisha Gray (18 points, 10 rebounds) proved too much for MSU to overcome. Schaefer said he made it clear in the postgame locker room that he doesn't expect much - if any - dropoff.

The Gamecocks also were happy for William, who tearfully dedicated a 41-point performance in a regional final win over Baylor to her late stepfather before the overtime stunner against the four-time defending champion Huskies. Those were things that I held dear and near to me growing up.

It was the first title for the SEC since the second of two straight by Tennessee in 2008.

Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer consoles forward Ketara Chapel during the final moments of Sunday's loss to SC.

"I'd be heartbroken", she said.

Freshmen Zion Chapel, Jacaira Allen and Ameshya Williams are a year older and their roles will increase and Arkansas transfer Jordan Danberry could help depth when she is inserted in January. The Gamecocks went through, around and over anything MSU had and nothing worked for the Bulldogs. Mississippi State (34-5) slowly cut into its deficit, getting with 54-50 on Jazzmun Holmes' jumper. The Starkville faithful and State fans everywhere embraced this team and made women's hoops must-watch sports.

But that's as close as the Bulldogs could get.

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The victory in front of a sellout crowd came one day after the Gamecocks men's basketball team lost in the Final Four in Phoenix.

In the two games against SC, the Bulldogs shot a combined 37.6 percent (47-of-125). Staley emptied her bench with less than a minute left and Wilson left with tears of joy. She collected four of her 10 rebounds in the fourth period and finished the night 7-of-15 from the floor, while fellow junior guard Kaela Davis chipped in 10 points to mark the third Gamecock to reach double figures.

Mississippi State led 64-62 before a replay review gave Katie Lou Samuelson the two free throws that tied the game.

In Oklahoma City, the attendance for the Baylor vs. Mississippi State game was 3,128 and and only 2,527 fans were in attendance for the Notre Dame - Stanford game in Lexington.

"I'm disappointed we didn't play better for you", Schaefer said. She didn't even travel with the team to Dallas.

Only a dozen fans - many of them alumni - waited outside Gampel Pavilion to greet the returning team. "We knew it was going to be only a matter of five, six minutes before we got it back".

"We tried and this really hurts now", Richardson said.

The Bulldogs avenged a 60-point loss a year ago to CT that ended their season in 2016, what can they do now?

"When somebody pressures me like that, I have to find a way to get myself in the game and lead my team", William said. "We had one heck of a year". "Today was no different".

No team had a tougher road to the championship then the second-seeded Bulldogs. They were trying to become the third team in NCAA history to beat three No. 1 seeds en route to the title. After a UConn turnover, William held the ball at the top of the key before dribbling to her right and pulling up for the shot, with the ball in the air when the buzzer sounded.

This was the sixth time in NCAA Tournament history that teams from the same conference played for the national championship, including three by the SEC.

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