DALLAS— The collective gasp from the state of Connecticut was silenced by the deafening roar of celebration from the rest of the nation. The No. 2 ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs put the women’s collegiate basketball world on notice with their 66-64 overtime win over the No. 1 ranked UConn Huskies, knocking off the four-time defending champions and snapping their illustrious 111-game winning streak.
Following the upset victory over No. 1 Baylor, the world thought junior Morgan William played the best game of her career due to her scoring a program-record 41 points. Little did everyone know that she would be the one to hand the Huskies their first loss when she would hit the buzzer beater heard around the world.
“When I made the shot, I was in shock. I'm still in shock. I'm over here like, ‘Hey, I just won the game’,” said Williams, still processing her game winner.
For 45 minutes the Bulldogs played with the will of a champion, beating the Huskies in total steals, points in the paint, rebounds and most importantly, total points. UConn was able to tie the game late in the fourth and were granted the chance to go to overtime after junior Gabby Williams blocked William’s shot with a few seconds to go.
Overtime started slowly for both teams: sophomore Napheesa Collier missed a jumper, junior Victoria Vivians was blocked shooting a jumper and then sophomore Katie Lou Samuelson proceeded to missed from deep 12 seconds later.
Neither team could score from the field.
It took until 3:36 in overtime for either team to get points on board, as senior forward Breanna Richardson hit two free throws to put the Bulldogs up two. The Huskies went on to miss four more shots before Samuelson hit a contested jumper with 1:35 to go.
UConn seemed to be slowly getting momentum back but 6-foot-7 sophomore Teaira McCowan was able to use her size and seal out Williams for an easy bucket inside. Coming out of a timeout, UConn committed yet another turnover but were fortunate when junior Blair Schaefer, the daughter of head coach Vic Schaefer, missed a sure fire dagger three from the right hand corner of the court.
Little did the arena know, one of the most important plays of the game came on the turnover before the Schaefer missed 3-pointer. With 53 seconds, Williams lost the ball but off of the play, Samuelson looked like she got hit on her way to the ground. After a review by the officials it was deemed a flagarent-1 foul due to the contact sustained to Samuelson’s neck and head area.
In the NCAA, a flagrant-1 is when “excessive or severe contact during a live ball, including especially when a player ...swings an elbow and makes illegal, non-excessive contact with an opponent above the shoulders.”
For this infraction, the team that is fouled is awarded two free throws and the ball.
Whether fair or unfair, UConn caught a break. Samuelson, an 83.7 percent free throw shooter this season, headed to the line, where she proceeded to knock down a pair. Free throws were an interesting subplot of the game, as Collier missed the potential winning free throw with 27 seconds to go in the fourth quarter and the Huskies went 17-25 in the game.
After Samuelson tied the game at 64, UConn had 26 seconds with the ball and the chance to either win the game in overtime or have the game go into double overtime. Senior Saniya Chong got the ball with under 18 seconds to go, saw and a lane and was met by William, who stood her ground and forced Chong to turn the ball over. Following a timeout, Mississippi State had 12.3 seconds to go and another chance to knock off Goliath.
Many probably thought that Williams had her “one shining moment” scoring 41 against Baylor or when she forced Chong to turn over the ball. They were wrong.
Mississippi State looked frazzled in their final possession getting the ball over the court with nine seconds to play. Senior Dominique Dillingham dribbled the ball in every direction before she turned around and passed it to William with four seconds to go while William was standing on the logo.
“I mean, we didn't want them to penetrate too deep, which they did,” Gabby Williams said about the final play. “We were trying to face guard a little bit and put some pressure on the guards so they couldn't bring it up as fast. Just had some help defense. But came up short.”
Ball fake, two dribbles to the right, jump stop, onions. Right over the outstretched arm of American defensive player of the year Gabby Williams, it was the five-foot-five William who won the day, knocking home the jumper, setting Dallas on fire, and in the process ending the greatest win streak the world might ever see.
Matt Kren is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering women’s basketball. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.