'Itty Bitty' guard big in Bulldogs lore after UConn shocker
But in the Final Four the Gamecocks thought the crowd represented them well and players could hear them packing a punch down the wire.
SC had junior guard Bianca Cuevas-Moore closely guarding William all the time she was on the floor, and William acknowledged that got to her.
The 2017 NCAA Women's Championship Game has a different feel for the first time in five years, as the Mississippi State Bulldogs and South Carolina Gamecocks will battle it out with each program looking for its first national title. The Bulldogs had never before advanced beyond the Sweet 16.
No matter. William, the shortest player on the court, made the biggest play of the USA national semi-finals late on Friday.
Wilson went to work down the stretch scoring eight points in the final 5:39 and was named the most outstanding player of the Final Four. SC had a 36-26 advantage at halftime.
That can be translated in a number of ways, but it only leads to more questions. You're talking about a Mississippi State women's program with a lightweight post-season history.
"They are going to be who they are-they are going to pressure the ball, they will disrupt, they will get the ball inside, and they have a point guard that manages the game extremely well", Staley said. "Sometimes this group can get caught up in a moment".
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. "I'm shocked. It's overwhelming, but it's exciting because it's for a great cause".
Allisha Gray scored 6 points and Bianca Cuevas-Moore had 3 while shadowing Bulldogs guard Morgan William, who ended UConn's 111-game winning streak with a buzzer-beating jumper in overtime in the semifinals.
Then in the national semifinals here at American Airlines Center on Friday, she had 13 points and six assists against the No. 1 overall seed Huskies.
The Bulldogs started strong, quickly building a 7-1 lead with five points from Vivians.
"I think Morgan might have Dak beat right now", teammate Dominique Dillingham said. "They play really hard defensively".
For 36 games, when the Huskies needed a basket they got one.
"She's the best player in the country".
PJ Dozier led the Gamecocks with 17 points and Thornwell, the leading scorer in the NCAA Tournament at 25.8 points per game, finished with 15 on 4-for-12 shooting after starting slow.
"We didn't want them to penetrate too deep, which they did", Connecticut's Gaby Williams said. After Friday's game, he made a point of seeking out William and telling her, "You deserve everything that's coming your way". "We just never got one in that first half especially". Coach Staley refers to her as the "silent assassin" as she keeps the Gamecocks in the game as teams focus to throw other players off of their game. In those terms, they have to, at some point, find a way to get past SC.
But that's not what is going to be recalled years from now in conversations at Starkville and beyond. Later, he explained, saying how many times that had happened the other way, how many times the Huskies had sent teams to the locker room in tears.
"It's not up to one school", Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer said Saturday.
The Huskies did answer with 12 straight, with the last seven from senior Saniya Chong to get it down to four. SC won the last two this year, including in the SCC tournaments a couple weeks ago. The Gamecocks doubled teamed McCowan which left shooters open for Mississippi State, allowing a window for points on the perimeter. The Bulldogs had already knocked off top-seed Baylor and UConn to get to the championship game. This was the team for those with big dreams from small towns. In fact, she earned the SEC 6th Woman of the Year award for her efforts. They were actually the more veteran team, with four seniors and four juniors.
Mississippi State guard Morgan William (2) shoots the game winning shot shot over CT guard Gabby Williams (15) during overtime in an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinals of the women's Final Four in Dallas on Friday, March 31, 2017. This was the team for those who have been doubted because of how they look.
"When we walked out of the gym three weeks ago, four weeks ago, (we) scored four points in the fourth quarter, that will humble you in a hurry". Coach Schaefer said he is looking forward to the matchup of the game and knows the championship will not be easily won to avoid a 3-0 sweep from SC in the season.
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