South Carolina wins title over Mississippi St.
(Reuters) DALLAS – South Carolina fended off Southeastern Conference rival Mississippi State for the biggest prize in women’s college basketball.
The Gamecocks led by as many as 14 points in the second half, then survived a Bulldogs charge to claim a 67-55 victory in the NCAA Tournament championship game on Sunday evening at the American Airlines Center.
In doing so, South Carolina (33-4), making its second Final Four appearance under head coach Dawn Staley, won its first national championship.
Staley lost in the Final Four twice as a player at Virginia, in 1990 and 1992. She guided the Gamecocks to the Final Four as their coach two years ago before they lost in the national semifinal.
But now Staley can add the net she cut down after winning the national championship to her three Olympic gold medals with Team USA.
“It means that I can check off one of the things that has been a void in my career,” Staley said. “It’s one of two opportunities that I saw women play when I was younger: national championship games and Olympics. Those were the things that I held near and dear to me when I was growing up.”
The Bulldogs couldn’t solve South Carolina, falling to the Gamecocks for the third time this season and the 11th-consecutive time overall.
But Mississippi State (34-5) can hold onto the distinction of being the team that ended Connecticut’s 111-game winning streak and run of four-straight national titles as the Bulldogs prevailed in 64-62 in overtime over the Huskies during a Friday semifinal.
A’ja Wilson, who was named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player, powered the Gamecocks on both offense and defense as she finished with 23 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks. Guard Allisha Gray pitched in 18 points and 10 rebounds.
Guard Victoria Vivians led Mississippi State with 12 points, and guard Dominique Dillingham added 11.