UConn’s record 111-game winning streak came to an end when Mississippi State pulled off perhaps the biggest upset in women’s basketball history, stunning the Huskies 66-64 on Morgan William’s overtime buzzer beater in the national semifinals.
DALLAS – Connecticut’s record 111-game winning streak came to a startling end when Mississippi State pulled off perhaps the biggest upset in women’s basketball history, stunning the Huskies 66-64 on Morgan William’s overtime buzzer beater in the national semifinals Friday night.
William made a 15-footer to cap it, moments after a replay review awarded UConn two free throws for a flagrant-1 foul call that tied the score with 26.6 seconds left.
“I live for moments like this,” William said. “UConn, they’re an incredible team. For me to make that shot against them, it’s unbelievable. I’m still in shock right now. I wanted to take the shot. I wanted to take the shot and I made it.”
UConn coach Geno Auriemma had a wry smile on his face after the final shot. There wasn’t much else he could do, the chance for a fifth straight national title suddenly beyond his grasp.
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The Huskies hadn’t lost in 865 days, with that defeat coming to Stanford in overtime on Nov. 17, 2014.
“We had an incredible run, but we came up against a much better team tonight,” Auriemma said.
The Bulldogs (34-4) will play South Carolina (32-4) for the national championship Sunday night in a matchup of Southeastern Conference teams. The Gamecocks beat Stanford in the first semifinal.
Mississippi State and UConn met in the Sweet 16 last season and the Huskies won by 60 points — the most-lopsided victory in regional-semifinals history. All season long, the Bulldogs had that humiliating loss on their minds.
Now they have erased that defeat, beating UConn (36-1) on a grand stage in one of the sport’s greatest games.
“I don’t have to play them 100 times. Only have to beat them once,” Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer said. “That is one heck of a basketball team, the greatest of all time. But how proud am I of my kids?”
Mississippi State led 64-62 before a replay review gave Katie Lou Samuelson the two free throws that tied the score. After a UConn turnover, the 5-foot-5 William held the ball at the top of the key before dribbling to her right and pulling up for the shot over 5-11 defender Gabby Williams, with the ball in the air when the buzzer sounded.
The Bulldogs ran onto the court, piling up at center court while UConn players stood stone-faced. Schaefer grabbed William in a bear hug, with former Mississippi State star Dak Prescott — the Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback — helping to lead the cheers.
Prescott said he would try to come back Sunday for the title game.
UConn rallied from a 16-point deficit, its biggest during its NCAA-record streak, to take a 59-56 lead in the fourth quarter. The teams were tied at 60 when the Bulldogs had a chance to win it in regulation, but William’s shot was blocked by Williams, sending the game into overtime.
“Maybe we’re just not ready for this. Maybe we were ready for everything else, but maybe we’re just not mature enough for this,” Auriemma said after UConn dropped to 0-4 in overtime NCAA tournament games. “Maybe all our young kids needed to experience this so that we can come back and really be ready for this.”
Neither team scored much in overtime, with Teaira McCowan’s layup with 1:12 left in the extra session snapping a 62-all tie. It was the lone basket for Mississippi State in OT until William’s winner.
During their last two decades of dominance where they have won 11 national championships, the Huskies rarely found themselves trailing — let alone by double digits. This was the first time this season UConn was behind in the fourth quarter.
The Bulldogs got off to a great start, taking it right at the Huskies like not many teams had done during the streak. The Bulldogs led 15-13 before scoring 14 straight points to go up 29-13. It was the biggest deficit UConn had faced during its historic streak and one of the largest during the last 22 years.
The Huskies cut Mississippi State’s lead to 29-25 as senior Saniya Chong scored seven points during a 12-0 run. Mississippi State answered and was up 36-28 at the half.
UConn came back in the third quarter behind its trio of All-Americans with Williams, Napheesa Collier and Samuelson keying a 12-3 run to start the second half. That run brought Huskies alums Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart (both players for the WNBA Seattle Storm) and Maya Moore, who were sitting about 20 rows behind the UConn bench, to their feet.
“I knew this was coming at some point,” Auriemma said of the loss. “I’m just shocked that it took this long to get here.”
South Carolina beats Stanford
DALLAS – South Carolina was able to speed the tempo after halftime, A’ja Wilson managed a double-double even while almost constantly surrounded by defenders and the Gamecocks are going to their first national-championship game.
They beat Stanford 62-53. The Cardinal led early, but struggled after star Karlie Samuelson sprained her ankle.
“I can’t even put into words the feeling that I have right now. This is a very special team,” said Wilson, who had 13 points and 19 rebounds. “I feel like we’ve earned this spot that we’re in now. We know that we’re not done. But just the feeling of just making history at your school is just something really special.”
Allisha Gray scored 18 points for the Gamecocks, who lost in the semifinal of their only other Final Four appearance two years ago.
Down 29-20 at halftime, South Carolina went ahead to stay with 13 straight points in the third quarter.
“The second half, I thought we just imposed our will from a defensive standpoint, sped the game up, and got playing at a pace which benefited our style of play,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said.
Stanford (32-6) took a big hit when Samuelson hurt her right ankle about five minutes before halftime, after the Pac-12 Cardinal had built an eight-point lead with a 13-1 run.
“Karlie twisting her ankle really kind of gave us a tough time,” coach Tara VanDerveer said. “She’s really been the glue to our team all year. She talks, she makes big shots. If someone told me before the game she won’t score, I’d say we’re in trouble. … Psychologically and physically, it was a challenge.”
Samuelson was injured when she was making a move toward the basket, and stepped on the foot of South Carolina’s Bianca Cuevas-Moore. Samuelson’s right foot slid onto the floor before twisting awkwardly.