DALLAS – With his mouth wide open, Vic Schaefer raised both his arms and started walking in circles near the bench. Morgan William turned her back to the basket, and with a wide smile, just started walking toward the scorer's table without saying a word. Perhaps she was unable to. She only stopped walking — as if she was suspended in disbelief like Schaefer — once she was mobbed by four teammates.
"I'm still in shock," William said.
Yes, it really happened. All of it. The historic win, the shot at the buzzer, the frenzied scene of maroon and white on the court at American Airlines Center — everything.
Mississippi State pulled off the biggest win in Mississippi sports history and one of the most significant upsets in women’s college basketball history on Friday night. Typically, the words “arguably” or “perhaps,” should be inserted somewhere in the middle of that previous sentence.
Not after Mississippi State 66, UConn 64.
UConn’s 111-game winning streak is over.
Mississippi State’s dream of a national championship is still alive.
"What an unbelievable, gutsy performance that no one in the country thought could happen," Schaefer said. "But we thought it could."
The Bulldogs (34-4), who have never won a national title, will play South Carolina (32-4) Sunday with a chance to do just that after beating UConn (36-1) in an overtime thriller in the Final Four.
William's buzzer-beating jumper from the elbow with a hand in the 5-foot-5 guard's face dropped jaws everywhere with a fitting ending to a classic.
For Schaefer, there was no one else but William, who scored 41 points against Baylor in the Elite Eight, who he wanted to take the final shot.
"He said, 'Mo, you're about to win the game,'" William said.
The scene was set for drama after a back-and-forth fourth quarter with a compelling final sequence of plays.
Teaira McCowan hit a layup after securing a pass from Morgan William to give MSU a 64-62 lead with 1:12 left in overtime. McCowan then tipped a pass into the hands of Breanna Richardson on UConn’s ensuing possession, but Blair Schaefer missed a 3-pointer with 31 seconds left.
Dom Dillingham was then called for a flagrant foul, and Katie Lou Samuelson hit both free throws to tie it at 64 with 26 seconds left. UConn's Saniya Chong turned the ball over in the paint, setting up MSU's opportunity — and William cashed in.
The game was too close, too compelling and just too good to finish after four quarters. Victoria Vivians nailed a 3-pointer from the left wing to give MSU a 60-59 lead with 1:14 left in regulation. UConn’s Napheesa Collier tied it at 60 after she made the second of two free throw attempts with 20.8 seconds left.
Mississippi State had a shot to win it in regulation, but William’s shot was blocked in the paint during the final seconds.
Mississippi State pushed UConn throughout in a way no other team had before. The Bulldogs took 21 more shots, forced 17 turnovers and outrebounded UConn 37-31.
"Today, they deserve to win," Geno Auriemma said. "They beat us. They took us away from what we like to do ... We came up against a much better team tonight."
The opening plays — a steal by Breanna Richardson, three missed shots by UConn, a defensive rebound from Richardson and a 3-pointer by Victoria Vivians — stirred a belief that the Bulldogs came to play. No, this wouldn't be like last year in the Sweet 16, when UConn beat MSU by 60 points.
When the buzzer sounded for the end of the first quarter and Mississippi State led 22-13, people wearing maroon in the stands embraced one another, shaking in celebration. When the Bulldogs’ lead grew to 29-13 with 7:36 left in the second quarter, the maroon and white delirium was so overwhelming that folks stopped looking at each other and second-guessing if what they were seeing was reality. Instead, dozens just raised their arms in jubilation.
The frenzy was appropriate; after all, what they were seeing was a scene no one had witnessed this season. UConn had not trailed by double-figures at any point in any game before playing Mississippi State. It was the Huskies’ largest deficit since November 2014.
The Bulldogs never trailed in the first half and held a 36-28 lead at halftime.
UConn stormed back in the third quarter just like anyone who has ever seen UConn play likely figured it would. The Huskies, with their crisp ball movement on offense, took advantage of MSU’s overreliance offensively on Victoria Vivians in the third quarter and took their first lead with six minutes left at 40-39. The quarter ended with the score knotted at 48, setting the grand stage for a climactic ending.
When it was over, and after Williams' shot went through the net, Auriemma stood with a sheepish grin while Mississippi State's bench stormed the court.
"Things happen for a reason," Auriemma said. "When it went it, it was like, 'Of course. Of course it was going to go in.'"
In the end, Schaefer said he wasn't too surprised his team was able to win this game. After all, the Bulldogs were ranked as high as No. 2 in the country at one point this season. But make no mistake: the significance of the victory was at the forefront of his mind.
"We beat the greatest team with the greatest streak in sports," Schaefer said. "These kids have a competitive spirit that many people don't know about it. You have to want to be in the moment and our kids did."