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William’s eye-popping 41 lifts MSU to 1st Final Four

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The back-and-forth game went to overtime, but a career day by the Bulldogs’ Morgan William helped Mississippi State to its first Final Four.

NCAA Womens Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Oklahoma City Regional-Baylor vs Mississippi State
Morgan William scored a career-high 41 points to send Mississippi State to its first Final Four.
Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Oklahoma City, OK -- With a 94-85 overtime win against the No. 1 Baylor Lady Bears Sunday, the No. 2 Mississippi State Bulldogs punched their ticket to the program’s first Final Four where they will face the winner of UConn and Oregon for a chance to play in the championship game.

The Mississippi State victory came behind a career-high 41-point effort from Morgan William. William, a junior, also set a new school record for career assists, passing the previous record of 464.

“I came out here early to shoot because I had issues the last couple games,” William said. “I was feeling it. It opened shots for my teammates, too. When I was open, I knew I could knock down the shot.”

The Bulldogs finished 50 percent (10-of-20) from three, including six treys by William. Mississippi State also took care of the basketball, turning it over just four times to Baylor’s 17 turnovers.

“It took a gut-check, gut-wrenching performance by our kids today, and we delivered,” Mississippi State head coach Vic Schaefer said. “I thought our kids were unflappable. I thought they were resilient. They showed tremendous toughness, a lot of character, and their heart.”

Baylor came off the blocks a bit more powerfully to open the game, going on a 9-2 run to begin the scoring drive. Mississippi State countered with an offensive charge of its own — a 9-2 Bulldog run tied the game up at 11.

Baylor sophomore Kalani Brown was on fire from the field in the first quarter, going 4-for-4 to lead all scorers with nine points after one.

William nailed a long two late in the first frame to give her Bulldogs a 21-19 edge.

“Kudos to her,” Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said of William. “I knew we were in trouble when they were hitting bank shot threes to start the game when the shot clock was winding down. What do you do?”

A 5-0 Baylor tear to open the second frame put the Lady Bears back up, 24-21.

Brown and Victoria Vivians continued to carry their respective teams on the offensive end, reaching 14 and 15 points, respectively.

Nina Davis, who poured in 21 points for Baylor against Louisville March 24, had 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting in the first half. She finished with 18 points.

For the Bulldogs, William also reached double figures early. She had 10 points to go along with five assists after the first half. In addition to her game-high scoring total, she also had a team-high seven assists. Her squad was up 43-40 at the break.

The usual suspects were back at it in the third; Brown and William each tacked on nine more points, but another 9-2 Baylor run at the end of the third quarter put the Lady Bears up 61-60 with one quarter to go.

In the fourth, scoring remained tight. Baylor went on a 7-0 run deep in the quarter, but a William floater in the lane tied it up at 75 with less than 30 seconds to go in regulation. The teams were locked there as the fourth quarter buzzer sounded.

With a bit more than two minutes remaining in the overtime, William sank a three from the corner to give her club an 85-81 edge. A Baylor three with about a minute and a half left cut the Bulldog lead to 87-85.

The Lady Bears gave away what may have been their most costly turnover with less than 30 seconds to go in extra time. Down 90-85, they lost the ball in their half court, forcing them to foul William. William made four free throws with less than 25 seconds to go to seal the deal for the Bulldogs.

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