DALLAS — In an epic game that went to overtime, Mississippi State stunned four-time defending NCAA champion UConn 66-64 in the national semifinals Friday at American Airlines Center. The epic upset snapped the Huskies’ NCAA-record 111-game winning streak and UConn’s quest for a fifth consecutive title.
A look at how Mississippi State did it.
How the game was won: Mississippi State pulled off one of the greatest upsets in the history of the women’s NCAA tournament and ended UConn’s 111-game winning streak — and the smallest player on the court did it. Morgan William, a 5-foot-5 junior, hit a pull-up jumper at the buzzer in overtime to take down the Huskies. It was a just ending as the Bulldogs were the better team for most of the game. They got more loose balls, outworked, and outexecuted a team that always does those things better than its opponents.
Player of the game: William. If she only scored those two points to finish the game she still would have been the player of the game. That’s how big that shot was. But she did so much more, controlling and orchestrating the patient Mississippi State offense. The point guard finished with 13 points and six assists.
Player of the game II: Victoria Vivians. The junior was once again the Bulldogs’ most aggressive offensive player. She only made 6-of-18 from the field, but her 3-pointer started the scoring for Mississippi State and seemed to send a message that the Bulldogs were going to compete. Vivians also hit a huge 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter that gave Mississippi State a 60-59 lead with 1:14 left. She finished with a team-high 18 points.
Player of the game III: Gabby Williams. She was the best player on the floor, but she didn’t get the usual help from her teammates. Williams finished with 21 points, 8 rebounds, 4 blocks and 2 steals. Her block of a William layup at the end of regulation saved the game for the Huskies at that moment and gave them a chance in overtime.
Turning point: Mississippi State led for much of the game and never trailed in overtime, but UConn actually had the best opportunity to win before the William game winner. After two free throws by Katie Lou Samuelson that came as a result of a controversial flagrant foul, the score was tied 64-64 and UConn had the ball with the ability to hold for the last shot. Instead senior Saniya Chong drove to the hoop looking to score to her left. William stepped in front of her and Chong lost the ball out of bounds, giving Mississippi State the last possession with 12.3 seconds left.
Stat of the game: Led by 6-foot-7 Teaira McCowan and her eight rebounds, Mississippi State had 18 second-chance points to UConn’s two.
Stat of the game II: UConn, which led the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio and is considered the country’s best passing team, committed 17 turnovers and only had 11 assists.
X factor: Vic Schaefer. His game plan and ability to make his team believe were nearly perfect. He orchestrated nearly every possession in the second half, as the Bulldogs regularly ran down the shot clock. Even if they didn’t score, it shortened the game and limited the Huskies’ possessions. It helped Mississippi State’s cause that UConn didn’t capitalize on many of the opportunities it did have, but Schaefer’s strategy gave the Huskies little room for error. Ultimately, there was too much and the Bulldogs pulled off the stunner.
What’s next: Mississippi State will play South Carolina in the national championship game on Sunday (ESPN/Watch ESPN, 6 p.m. ET).