By now, it’s fair to say SC is a better team than Mississippi State.
A’ja Wilson scored 23 points to help coach Staley and SC win their first national championship with a 67-55 victory over Mississippi State on Sunday night.
Attack mode suits the SC women’s basketball team. She averaged 19 points and 4.7 assists in four Final Four games. She also struggled to set the pace on offense against SC guard guard Bianca Cuevas-Moore, whose aggressive defense kept William on her heels.
But William lacked energy, and her size was an issue against South Carolina’s bigger guards, Kaela Davis (6-2), Allisha Gray (6-0). William could’ve been worn out, but she’s an athlete and competitor.
But nine players will be back. And while the Bulldogs came out with a lot of fight initially, they were suffocated by the stifling defense of SC, and they Gamecocks fought their way to the National Title, 67-55.
Staley acknowledges that basketball “has been an incredible gift that keeps on giving”.
As a player at Virginia, Staley participated in three Final Fours, and in eight years in the WNBA, she was a five-time All-Star selection.
Wilson said she could not stop thinking about her late grandmother, Hattie Rakes, after she knew the Gamecocks had clinched the national title.
After the first four-plus minutes of the third quarter went by, it seemed as though Mississippi State had lost their luster.
“We work together at SC for this common goal of winning this national championship”, Staley said.
Will it be a hard act to follow? The Gamecocks, who converted 11 of their first 13 free throw attempts, continued to collect points at the line, and two more from the charity stripe by Wilson established a 25-16 advantage with less than seven minutes to play in the second quarter.
“They pretty much guarded me hard full court”, William said. “When I couldn’t get it done in college, I thought that was it”. The others were UConn’s Gabby Williams and Mississippi State’s Victoria Vivians and William – whose buzzer beater knocked off UConn.
She leaned into the microphone and took a second to collect herself. She scored 41 points in Mississippi State’s win over number one seed Baylor in the Elite Eight. You’ll often hear Coach Staley say the team is where they are now because of those who laid the foundation. “You can’t dictate the play of someone based on how short they are. I’m going to have to pass a piece of my net onto someone else so they can share, and hopefully, accomplish something as big as this”.
“Heart over height” is a nice motto.
The USC women beat Mississippi State 67 to 55 Sunday night for the school’s first national championship in basketball. Senior post player Chinwe Okorie is 6 feet 5 inches tall. “But it’s not defining our season”, Bulldogs coach Vic Schaefer said. Although-winning this game means she has to return something she had been carrying in her wallet for years. “She’s put in so much time and sweat into this”. When everyone is patting you on the back and announcing that you have just pulled off the impossible, thinking of yourself as something less than invincible a few hours later is no small feat. They spent a year getting to know our team, getting to know our system. Good coaches believe in all those things, too, but William is one of main reasons Mississippi State made it to the title game.
Third time a charm? Doors will open at 7 pm (College, Lincoln and the main doors) for the celebration honoring Coach Dawn Staley’s NCAA National Championship team.
South Carolina’s defense, meanwhile, frustrated a Mississippi State offense that had been so prolific at times in this tournament, with three 90-point performances in March.
“You look at the teams that SC beat, they beat Duke and they beat Baylor by 20”, he said.
SC made the run without senior center Alaina Coates, who missed the NCAA Tournament with an ankle injury. Most of the sharp money is on Gonzaga, because the numbers bear it out as a sharp play.
The attempt was from the same spot where William became more known for how great of a player she is, and where she ended the domination by a team from Storrs, Connecticut. AM is like SC and State as the new elite of the SEC, replacing the legacy of Tennessee, Georgia and LSU that had been around the top of the league in the 80s, 90s and the start of the 2000s.
Out of 320 Division I women’s teams, only 10 percent have an African-American female coach. Her teams have made the NCAA tournament six consecutive years, and have won both the SEC tournament and regular season titles three years running. The Huskies now have the best talent, again, and an edge. North Carolina and Gonzaga will play for the men’s Division I championship. “The disappointment that they experienced without being invited to the NCAA Tournament was devastating”. Notre Dame beat the Huskies in overtime, in a national semifinal game.
Riding some leftover momentum from their upset of UConn, the Bulldogs quickly gained a 7-1 lead.
From the sidelines, he completed something that was darned near impossible over the past 50 years – he made SC basketball fun again.