Dominique Dillingham and Mississippi State will try to finish as No. 1 in the nation on Sunday after knocking off UConn in the Final Four on Friday. (Ron Jenkins / Getty Images)
Coach Vic Schaefer and his Mississippi State Bulldogs didn’t get much time to celebrate what might be the greatest shocker in women’s basketball history.
Not when there’s one more game to win, not when there’s a national championship on the line against SEC rival South Carolina.
“They’re really grounded. Our kids know what’s coming down the pike,” he said. “They know now the prize now is in front of them; it’s attainable. We have one heck of a team to get ready for, a tremendous staff. They’re really, really good. But it’s down to the two of us.”
Right after Morgan William hit the winner to end UConn’s 111-game winning streak, the Bulldogs dogpiled at center court as if they had won the school’s first title.
“It felt like the national championship last night,” Mississippi State star Dominique Dillingham said. “But I promise you it’ll be a lot better tomorrow when we win.”
It would be even sweeter to beat the Gamecocks to do it.
The Bulldogs lost twice to the Gamecocks this year, dropping a game in South Carolina in the regular season and then in the SEC Tournament title game.
“The first game we had against them at their place, it’s a knockdown, drag-out, came down to one play,” Schaefer said. “We talked about that with our kids. It came down to one play in that ballgame.”
While facing a familiar foe is helpful for the short turnaround, South Carolina coach Dawn Staley knows Mississippi State is a different team from the one the Gamecocks played a month ago.
“It does make it easier. but for what Mississippi State has done over the past five games, you know, they’re much different than they were that sixth game in which we played them in the SEC Tournament championship,” Staley said. “The intangible part of it is really hard to get our focus in on it. They’re playing at an all-time high. Morgan William is playing some of the best basketball I’ve ever seen played in a player.”
William followed a career-best 41-point performance in the regional final, hitting the 15-footer against the Huskies.
“We feel like we won it all when we won that game last night, but we know we didn’t,” William said. “We still have unfinished business, and for us to be playing South Carolina, it’s kind of like, now we get another chance, like we got another chance at UConn, now we get another opportunity to play against South Carolina, but it’s on a bigger stage and it means more.”
Michigan wins NIT in triple overtime
Katelynn Flaherty hit four three-pointers and scored 27 points, Hallie Thome added 25 points, and Michigan outlasted Georgia Tech, 89-79, in three overtimes on Saturday for the WNIT championship.
Michigan (28-9) is the 20th different champion in the 20-year history of the tournament. It was the first time the championship game went to overtime.
Siera Thompson added 13 points with eight assists for Michigan. Flaherty became the second player in program history to reach 2,000 points.
Zaire O’Neil scored 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds for Georgia Tech (22-15) but she fouled out with 3:36 left in regulation. Elo Edeferioka added 11 points and 17 rebounds.
Michigan was down 67-61 late in regulation but Flaherty hit two deep three-pointers — the last to tie it at 67-all with 10.2 to go. Edeferioka was fouled on a free-throw line jumper with 0.6 seconds left but the 71.4% free-throw shooter missed both.
In the first overtime, Georgia Tech’s Cha’Ron Sweeney knotted it at 70 with 1:04 to go on a three-pointer in transition and she blocked a shot at the buzzer. Georgia Tech’s Francesca Pan forced the third overtime with a steal and fast-break layup to tie it at 76.