SC hang on for women's collegiate crown


A'ja Wilson of the South Carolina Gamecocks defends a shot from Breanna Richardson #3 of the Mississippi State Lady Bulldogs during the second half of the championship game of the 2017 NCAA Women's Final Four at American Airlines Center on April 2, 2017 in Dallas, Texas.

SC head coach Dawn Staley celebrates with her players after Sunday's win in the title game.

There were also former players at the game Sunday night- who witnessed history.

Dawn Staley is going to savor her first NCAA championship.

Morgan William, the diminutive point guard who had helped deliver the Bulldogs (34-5) to the title game, wasn't even on the floor in the fourth quarter of the final game.

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The second quarter saw a subtle increase in control from the Gamecocks. MSU was outrebounded 19-12. Wilson was one of the few players in this game who didn't have a moment of panic.

To win their first national title, they had to go through the Bulldogs, who shocked UConn with a buzzer-beating 66-64 victory on Friday night.

Player of the game: A'ja Wilson. Vivians would hold the high mark for State with 12.

SC led by as many as 14 points in the second half and survived a charge from Mississippi State's Bulldogs in the NCAA Tournament final in Dallas.

The Bulldogs started strong, quickly building a 7-1 lead with five points from Vivians.

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SC held a 40-27 rebounding advantage. "She told me to keep it". She was the game's second-leading scorer, with 18 points, and equaled Wilson with 10 rebounds. The Gamecocks battled back to tie and scored the first quarter's final five points for an 18-14 lead. That seemed to take the steam out of a Mississippi State team that looked a little exhausted and one step behind much of the night.

MSU cut to within four during the fourth quarter, 54-50, but the Gamecocks always had an answer.

It was the third time this season SC topped Mississippi State, including the Southeastern Conference title game. They never got closer.

SC has weathered an early surge from crowd favorite Mississippi State to take an 18-14 lead after one quarter of the NCAA women's championship game Sunday night. They were also more aggressive on the glass than Mississippi State with a 40-27 advantage. This South Carolina team will return a majority of their roster next year, including star A'ja Wilson, if she decides to stay for her senior season.

Wilson and Gray led the way as SC won the rebounding battle, 40-27, and outscored the Bulldogs in the paint, 42-20.

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SC was threatening to run away with the title before Mississippi State clawed back into the contest in the third quarter. She became the centerpiece of Dawn Staley's offensive strategy, dribbling off ball screen after ball screen.