SC coach Dawn Staley won her first national championship Sunday night with a 67-55 victory over Mississippi State at the American Airlines Center. Staley is only the second to win a women's national title and, in the postgame news conference, she held up a piece of the net Carolyn Peck gave her years ago after Purdue won the 1999 title game.
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.
SC joined Tennessee as the only SEC teams to win a national championship.
"I think experience takes care of some of this stuff", Williams said at Sunday's media event. It was the third time two SEC teams played in the championship game ― Tennessee vs. Georgia in 1996 and Tennessee vs.
The Gamecocks' 67-55 win in the title game Sunday was South Carolina's third - and most convincing - win over the Bulldogs this season.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, who wildly celebrated the shot that ended UConn's record 111-game winning streak in the national semifinals, missed the Bulldogs' NCAA title game against SC on Sunday night because of a commitment he couldn't break. Proving to be no match for the Bulldogs, the All-American forward recorded 23 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks.
Julius Randle had 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Lakers, while Larry Nance Jr. added 12 points and 14 boards.
"Our players stuck and executed the game plan, and SC is a great defensive team and we hang our hats on that", coach Dawn Staley said. SC leads Mississippi State 19-16 in the all-time series.
"I thought we had a couple kids today that just didn't quite have the energy level that we needed", Bulldogs coach Vic Schaefer said when asked about William's absence. I mean, Gonzaga, first time ever in the championship, North Carolina has been there, like, a million times.
"I really can't see myself doing anything other than what I'm doing, impacting the lives of young people, and also being able to check this box off in my career", Staley said. "I've been coaching for 17 years now", Staley said at a press conference.
A'ja Wilson saw chance to shine at SC
But Mississippi State battled back despite foul trouble and a scoring drought of more than four minutes in the first half. This will be the first time since 2012 that women's Division I college basketball crowns a champion not named UConn.
The opening barrage set the tone, and ultimately, set the stage for the Bulldogs to reach the national championship game.
If South Carolina emerges as the next great power, then this triumph over an SEC rival will be remembered for where it all began. In the season's biggest game, the Bulldogs' shifty, energetic guard couldn't get on the floor to do what she does best: penetrate and create shots for herself and teammates.
To understand the depth of Staley's satisfaction is to understand that she is fiercely - nearly obsessively - competitive. "It's a great day to be a Gamecock!" said fan Kellie Robinson. She scored 41 points in Mississippi State's win over number one seed Baylor in the Elite Eight.
Several players from that team including tight end Martellus Bennett, safety Devin McCourty, linebacker Dont'a Hightower and former defensive end Chris Long have said they would not attend.
To put this in perspective it's important to note that MSU has never come close to where they find themselves now?
Mississippi State finished the year 34-5 overall.
Mississippi State started strong with seven of the first eight points of the game, but like the other two meetings, SC pushed back.
SC looked to make it a flawless 3-0 against Mississippi State.
Staley helped make it that way, and Sunday, her basketball resume checked off a long-awaited box. She doesn't have her counterpart, senior center Alaina Coates, to share duties around the basket.
Stat of the game III: Wilson, Gray and Davis combined to score all but 16 of South Carolina's points. She didn't even travel with the team to Dallas. We had 2,000 today sending them off. But it's not defining our season.
We'll have up-to-the-minute scoring and stats here throughout the game. "Got the opportunity to play and we become national champions".