Southern style: Familiar foes meet for national title

Right before he was about to speak at the podium, Schaefer looked toward seniors Dom Dillingham, Breanna Richardson and Ketara Chapel, flashed the kind of smile one makes before they're about to shed tears of their own and congratulated SC. The SEC rivals played twice during the season, with SC winning both matchups, including a 59-49 victory in the conference tournament title game on March 5.

WORKING OVERTIME: Mississippi State is the first team to win consecutive overtime games in the NCAA Tournament, and the Bulldogs are 3-1 in the extra period this season.

SC is halfway to its first NCAA women's championship in a matchup of first-time finalists with Mississippi State.

"They pretty much guarded me hard full court", William said.

"We had been practicing it all year and we always want to foul under 6 (seconds)". Ending their extraordinary winning streak, Mississippi State handed UConn their first loss in three years.

SC (33-4) turned a 10-point halftime lead into a 45-31 advantage midway through the third quarter before the Bulldogs rallied.

The difference this time, other than the trip to "Music City", was the SEC taking part with its two best teams in SC and Mississippi State. The Gamecocks led by as many as 13. It's Mississippi State's first trip to the Final Four and the second for the Gamecocks, who beat frequent Final Four qualifier Stanford in the semifinals. The Bulldogs took twice as many shots (36-18).

"You nine that are now sitting here, we're good enough", Schaefer said. "Sometimes this group can get caught up in a moment".

"I thought they were really, really aggressive, did a really nice job attacking us", Schaefer said. "We just love watching the games".

In possibly the biggest upset in women's basketball history, Mississippi State ended UConn's 111-game winning streak with an overtime buzzer beater Friday night, The Associated Press reported. The Bulldogs had eight assists and 10 turnovers, while the Gamecocks had seven assists and 11 turnovers.

Victoria Vivians led the Bulldogs on the offensive end, but struggled shooting from the field, scoring twelve points on 4-16 shooting, 1-5 from three. Staley emptied her bench with less then a minute left and Wilson left with tears of joy.

"I think we're all taking it in", student Sarah Brown said. "I don't think it had anything to do with them being tired or not".

Before that, William and the Bulldogs (34-4) still have one more game to play. Teaira McCowan had a team-high 10 rebounds.

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

Win or lose in the championship game, she can consider it erased - along with all the other preconceived ideas this tournament began with.

Jackson-Durrett played for the Sooners from 2001-05, including an NCAA final appearance her freshman season against UConn in 2002. I think SC really played extremely well.

But that's not what is going to be recalled years from now in conversations at Starkville and beyond. Got the opportunity to play and we become national champions. Even if it's not exactly "even" yet and the Huskies are still the front-runner to win next year, the Bulldogs victory has shed light onto some weaknesses Coach Geno Auriemma and the Huskies exhibit, and how to take advantage of them.

Among the features were the battle of the pep bands with Mississippi State getting the edge by those who were judging. This was the team for those who have been incorrectly labeled for far too long.

The game didn't go Mississippi State's way last night. This was the team for those with big dreams from small towns.

Nicknamed LittleBit by her teammates and fans, or just Bit for short, she's a soft-spoken kid with an aura of half-masted sadness in her eyes, still grieving over the loss of her stepfather who died suddenly three years ago. "It's what was best for the team". William's touching story, and her effectiveness despite being just 5-foot-5, had made her the breakout star of this women's tournament. This was the team for those who have been doubted because of how they look. Mississippi State fans unable to make it to Dallas are welcomed at the official Bulldog watch party on the Mississippi State campus in Humphrey Coliseum. "But I promise you it'll be a lot better tomorrow when we win".

  • Julie Sanders