Former Connecticut standout Breanna Stewart and other former All-Americans from UConn were in attendance on Friday night for the Huskies’ national semifinal game — their faces pale and in shock.
Mississippi State’s Victoria Vivians had just made a layup to give the Bulldogs a 29-13 lead — yes, 16 points — on mighty UConn with 7:45 remaining in the second quarter.
The shock on faces was even more so at the end of the game.
Bulldogs guard Morgan William hit the biggest shot of her career, a 15-footer at the buzzer in overtime, to beat UConn 66-64 and send Mississippi State into Sunday's 5 p.m. national championship game against SEC rival South Carolina.
“Heck of a basketball game — overtime with two great teams,” Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer said. “I’m extremely proud of my group with such a gutsy performance that probably no one in the country knew could happen.”
UConn’s streak of 111 straight wins and four consecutive national titles was snapped.
“Obviously when you get to this point in the season and you lose, it’s the worst feeling imaginable,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “We had our chances, but they beat us. Proud of our team and our kids, it’s been an incredible run, we just came up against a much better team tonight.”
Tied at 60-60 after regulation, Breanna Richardson made two free throws for Mississippi State and UConn’s Katie Lou Samuelson tied it with a jumper with 1:37 to play. Teaira McCowan’s layup put the Bulldogs ahead 64-62 with 1:14 left.
With 27 seconds to go, the Bulldogs were called for a flagrant-1 foul and Samuelson made both free throws for the 64-64 tie. UConn also kept possession, but turned the ball over with 12.3 seconds left, setting up William’s game winner.
“Coach called a timeout and he said ‘Morgan, you can win this game’ and I just created space, jumped up and made it and was in shock — I’m still in shock, I just won the game,” William said.
Trailing 29-13, the Huskies scored the next 12 points to get within 29-25 on a Saniya Chong 3-pointer with 3:46 left in the half. The Bulldogs went into the break with a 36-28 lead.
UConn continued to trim the lead in the third quarter. Layups by Gabby Williams and Napheesa Collier, and a 3-pointer by Samuelson made it 38-35 Bulldogs with 7:54 left in the frame.
Vivians made a free throw, but Kia Nurse gave UConn its second straight 3-point basket to get within 39-38, and Collier’s jumper shortly after put the Huskies on top for the first time all night at 40-39.
Four ties and three lead changes later and it was all knotted up at 48-48 heading into the final 10 minutes. The game was tied at 50-50 and 52-52 in the fourth quarter before the Bulldogs led 56-52 on baskets by Chinwe Okorie and Vivians.
UConn scored the next seven points, capped off by a jumper by Williams for a 59-56 lead. Mississippi State responded with the next four points for a 60-59 lead after a 3-pointer by Vivians with 64 seconds left.
“We believed in our locker room that it could be done,” Schaefer said. “We beat the greatest team with the greatest streak in the history of sports.”
Vivians led four Bulldogs in double figures with 19 points. William added 13.
Williams led UConn with a game-high 21 points and Samuelson chipped in 15. Mississippi State held UConn to just 11 assists. The Huskies came into the night averaging 25 assists per game.