South Carolina Wins 1st-Ever NCAA Women's Championship over Mississippi St

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistApril 3, 2017

South Carolina forward A'ja Wilson (22) holds the trophy as she and teammates celebrate their win over Mississippi State in the final of NCAA women's Final Four college basketball tournament, Sunday, April 2, 2017, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Eric Gay/Associated Press

Mississippi State slayed the giant, but South Carolina ended up with the spoils.

The Gamecocks are the 2017 NCAA women's national champions after their 67-55 win over the No. 2 seed Bulldogs in Sunday's title game at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.     

While Mississippi State snapped Connecticut's 111-game winning streak in the semifinals Friday night, it couldn't replicate the magic in its third straight matchup against a No. 1 seed in this tournament.

The Bulldogs faced the highest possible seed in every game they played during March Madness.

The win represents the first national title for South Carolina, which had only made its first Final Four appearance two years earlier. 

There were plenty of noteworthy fans ready to congratulate the squad on the victory:

Bill Clinton @BillClinton

Congratulations to my friend @DawnStaley and the great @GamecockWBB on a terrific win!

Frank Martin @FrankMartin_SC

I've seen firsthand up close for 5 years the pursuit of a championship by @dawnstaley & @GamecockWBB tonite I'm crying again. Love u guys

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Earvin Magic Johnson @MagicJohnson

Congratulations to @dawnstaley & the @GamecockWBB team on their first NCAA Women's national championship! Phenomenal play & well deserved.

A'ja Wilson was the star in the game, scoring 23 points with 10 rebounds and four blocks in the win.

Mitch Pugh of the Post and Courier summed it up nicely:

Mitch Pugh📰 @SCMitchP

A'ja Wilson is dominating.

Allisha Gray also played a key role with 18 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks as the team dominated inside.

Shockingly, South Carolina didn't hit a single three-pointer but generally avoided outside shots. Instead, the team attacked the basket and made a difference in the paint, also shooting 17-of-22 from the free-throw line.

Meanwhile, the Gamecocks held Mississippi State to just 34.5 percent shooting from the field and 2-of-12 from beyond the arc.

Morgan William, the hero from Friday's overtime win over UConn, finished with just eight points and didn't appear in the fourth quarter.

Victoria Vivians led the way for the Bulldogs with 12 points on 4-of-16 shooting.

While the two sides were close in a low-scoring first quarter, a 9-0 run helped South Carolina gain the early advantage.

Lindsay Jones of USA Today described the intial play:

Lindsay Jones @bylindsayhjones

South Carolina taking control early second quarter, now up 25-16. MSU's star, Morgan William, looks off, just airballed a jumper.

William was held scorless in the first quarter and only went 1-of-5 from the field in the first half. Conversely, just about everything was falling for South Carolina:

NCAA WBB @ncaawbb

All the moves! @GamecockWBB #NationalChampionship #WFinalFour https://t.co/S8wxkwtOap

A 21-13 rebounding advantage also helped the Gamecocks hold what became a 36-26 lead at halftime.

The momentum stayed with the No. 1 seed, which built a 14-point lead in the third quarter and seemed to make a big play whenever Mississippi State tried to come back.

This Tyasha Harris three-point play seemed like it would kill the underdog's spirits:

NCAA WBB @ncaawbb

AND 1! @GamecockWBB #NationalChampionship #WFinalFour https://t.co/x1X3eLd5L6

However, the Bulldogs immediately responded with a 9-0 run to get back in the game. They cut the lead to four before South Carolina bounced back to take a 52-44 advantage into the final quarter.

It seemed like every time the game got close, Wilson was there with a big play:

NCAA WBB @ncaawbb

A'ja Wilson has the answer. @GamecockWBB #NationalChampionship #WFinalFour https://t.co/hjVjKfNR1u

NCAA WBB @ncaawbb

Icing ➡️ 🎂 @GamecockWBB #WFinalFour #NationalChampionship https://t.co/rACwhqGwoV

The fourth-quarter dominance from the All-American was what the Gamecocks needed to close out the 12-point victory.

South Carolina has few seniors on its roster and should be a contender once again next season, while Mississippi State also has plenty of returning talent. In the meantime, the Gamecocks will celebrate their first national championship.


Postgame Reaction

Head coach Dawn Staley, who made the Final Four three times as a player but never won a title, showed plenty of emotion after the win.

"I'm just so happy that our dreams our coming true today," she said, per WIS News 10.

Meanwhile, her star player is already looking forward at the 2018 title.

"Man, just be with us next year—we're trying to be in this same spot next year," Wilson said, per Doug Feinberg of the Associated Press. "We're going to see how it goes."

In the other locker room, Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer didn't want to put the blame on his players.

"I'm going to take responsibility for our poor defensive play today," he said, per Will Sammon of the Clarion-Ledger.

Despite the disappointing finish, the Bulldogs should be proud of an outstanding run that will be remembered for years.

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