In a game which featured a last-second, game-tying three and 15 lead changes, the Mississippi State Bulldogs prevailed over the Louisville Cardinals in overtime, 73-63. This one was an instant classic.
Things got off to a slow start—understandable given early-game jitters and the fact that both teams are quite strong defensively—but quickly picked up. Louisville jumped out to a 6-0 lead, but the game was extremely close throughout until the Cardinals took a seven-point lead with just over seven minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Louisville didn’t score again until the 2:03 mark in regulation as MSU mounted a 10-0 run to take a 56-53 lead. A jumper by Myisha Hines-Allen followed by an Arica Carter layup put the Cardinals back up by one. With 32 seconds left and the ball, it seemed all they needed to do was hold on to possession to win the game. Unfortunately, they had some trouble inbounding, needing a time-out to avoid a penalty. Not yet at the bonus, MSU kept fouling.
With 11 seconds left, Hines-Allen caught a pass heading to the rim and decided to take the open layup in front of her. This worked out well for Mississippi State, however, as the clock stopped and the Bulldogs had the ball down three.
Then this happened.
This Roshunda Johnson three would send the game to overtime, where a Victoria Vivians three-pointer represented the only points of the period until she hit another jumper with 1:20 left to put her team up five. The Bulldogs were able to hold on at the foul line to secure their second consecutive national championship game appearance.
Schaefer made a bold move leaving Vivians in the game after she was called for her fourth foul early in the 4th quarter. She responded with a big performance down the stretch, including the key baskets in overtime, and finished with 25 points to go along with four rebounds.
Alongside Vivians, to nobody’s surprise, 6-foot-7 center Teaira McCowan also had a huge game, scoring an efficient 21 points (7-12 FG) along with 25 rebounds. Those two were the rocks for this team, but Morgan William (10 points), Jordan Danberry (10 points), and Johnson (7 points, 3 very big ones) all came up big in key moments. William made a late steal to help the Bulldogs seal it while Danberry had a steal of her own and hit some deciding free throws.
Louisville deserves a ton of credit for the effort it displayed. Asia Durr (19 points) and Jazmine Jones (16 points, 9 rebounds) were the team’s leading scorers, they just didn’t have an answer for McCowan or Vivians and the Bulldog defense held up in crunch time.
Mississippi State goes on to Sunday’s national championship, where they will face the winner of UConn vs. Notre Dame. Tip-off will be at 6 p.m. at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.