SEC pride: S Carolina happy to see Miss St in women's final
DALLAS (AP) South Carolina players watched from their hotel and were shocked along with everyone else when UConn's record 111-game winning streak ended on a buzzer-beating shot by Mississippi State's Morgan William in the women's national semifinals.
Their next reaction might have surprised some people: pride and joy, more than relief. The Gamecocks were happy to have an SEC rival in the NCAA championship game, and another first-time participant to boot.
''We're proud an SEC school could do it,'' South Carolina guard Kaela Davis said. ''I feel for (UConn) because for me, I couldn't imagine the pressure kind of riding just with having all that on your back. At the same time, I'm proud that it was an SEC school and proud of the way Mississippi State played.''
The Gamecocks also were happy for William, who tearfully dedicated a 41-point performance in a regional final win over Baylor to her late stepfather before the overtime stunner against the four-time defending champion Huskies.
Now South Carolina has to make sure the 5-foot-5 junior doesn't do it again in Sunday's final, while trying to go 3 for 3 against the Bulldogs this season. The first win was during the regular season, and the second for the SEC Tournament title.
''Morgan William is going to make shots, she's going to make plays,'' Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley said. ''If we can decrease the amount of time that those plays are easy plays, I think it works in our favor. But if she's in a groove and she's playing as she's played over the past five games, it's going to be a long night for us.''
Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer is 0-8 against South Carolina in five seasons, but both games this season were toss-ups. The Bulldogs lost by three on the road then had a lead before a four-point fourth quarter in the SEC tournament.
Now it's a third straight game against a top seed for the second-seeded team out of the Oklahoma City Regional.
''We keep bringing up my history with South Carolina, so apparently the fact that we've never beat them is an issue today,'' Schaefer said. ''My kids are tough. They've earned the right to be here. We've come through an incredibly tough region.''
ABOUT THAT CALL: The NCAA clarified the delayed flagrant foul that gave UConn two tying free throws with 27 seconds left in overtime. The statement said the video review occurred within the allowable time frame and that Dominique Dillingham made unnecessary contact with Katie Lou Samuelson when both went crashing to the court after Mississippi State's Teaira McCowan tipped a pass to create a turnover.
The steal happened with 53 seconds left, and the review came after UConn called timeout following a missed shot by Mississippi State. The flagrant meant possession for UConn, although the Huskies already had the ball after the missed shot.
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. The first OT win in the tournament spoiled Baylor's chance to play in the Final Four just 100 miles from campus. ''Physically, we're made for overtime,'' Dillingham said. ''Our energy level is really high still.''
RATINGS UPDATE: The Bulldogs' thrilling OT upset of the Huskies drew a 1.9 overnight rating, matching the highest rating on ESPN from UConn's four-year championship run. It was the most streamed women's Final Four game with 233,000 viewers. The overnight rating peaked at 2.7 during overtime. Hartford, Connecticut, led the local markets with a 16.6 rating, nearly four times any other market.