The Huskies’ 111-game run came to a stunning end when Mississippi State pulled off perhaps the biggest upset in women’s basketball history, winning 66-64 on Morgan William’s overtime buzzer beater in the national semifinals Friday night.
“I can’t say I’m surprised,” Auriemma said. “It’s something I’ve been talking about to the guys all year long. I’ve been talking about it all year. We’re playing way above our years, way above our experience level and tonight it caught up to us when we needed to be more mature with what we’re doing.”
“We didn’t have it. A big part of it was because of what they were doing,” the coach said.
The Huskies hadn’t lost in 865 days, with that defeat coming to Stanford in overtime on Nov. 17, 2014. Winning had become routine, often by routs. But in an instant, their drive toward a fifth consecutive national championship had been blocked.
When William’s jumper dropped, Auriemma broke into that wry smile. He turned to his bench, then went to congratulate the Bulldogs.
“We had an incredible run, but we came up against a much better team tonight,” Auriemma said.
It took an incredible shot by Mississippi State’s diminutive point guard to end the historic streak.
William hit a 15-footer to cap it, moments after a replay review awarded UConn two free throws for a flagrant 1 foul call that tied the score with 26.6 seconds left.
“I live for moments like this,” William said. “UConn, they’re an incredible team. For me to make that shot against them, it’s unbelievable. I’m still in shock right now. I wanted to take the shot. I wanted to take the shot and I made it.”
The Bulldogs (34-4) will play South Carolina for the national championship Sunday night in a matchup of two SEC teams.
Mississippi State and UConn met in the Sweet 16 last season and the Huskies won by 60 points — the most-lopsided win in regional semifinals history. All season long the Bulldogs had that humiliating loss on their minds.
Now they have erased that defeat, beating UConn (36-1) on the grandest stage in one of the sport’s greatest games.
“I don’t have to play them 100 times. Only have to beat them once,” Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer said. “That is one heck of a basketball team, the greatest of all-time. But how proud am I of my kids?”
Mississippi State led 64-62 before a replay review gave Katie Lou Samuelson the two free throws that tied the score. After a UConn turnover, William held the ball at the top of the key before dribbling to her right and pulling up for the shot, with the ball in the air when the buzzer sounded.
The Bulldogs ran onto the court, piling up at center court while UConn players stood stone-faced. Schaefer grabbed William in a bear hug, with former Mississippi State star Dak Prescott — the Dallas Cowboys quarterback — helping lead the cheers. Prescott said he’d try to come back Sunday for the title game.