KANSAS CITY, Mo. (WTVA/MSU Athletics) - Next stop: Columbus, Ohio and the Final Four.
Mississippi State's incredible women's basketball run continued Sunday night when the top-seeded Bulldogs beat No. 3 seed UCLA 89-73 to win the NCAA Tournament's Kansas City Regional at the Sprint Center.
With the win, State secured its second straight trip to the Final Four.
MSU (36-1) will face Louisville (36-2) Friday in one of two national semifinal games in Columbus, Ohio. Both Final Four games will air on ESPN2 with the winners playing in Sunday night's national championship game.
"I'm giving glory to God for No. 36," Schaefer said. "I'm also proud of our seniors for winning No. 125. They have now lived all year with a bullseye on their back. That's hard to do. Then they added another bullseye as they went through the year undefeated.
"We've had a very difficult regional, and these kids are special. This entire team has been very, very special. To be able to handle that night-in and night-out in our conference is just extremely hard."
The Bulldogs made it four-straight wins in the tournament, thanks in large part to a dominating second quarter. In that period, the Bulldogs outscored the Bruins 19-9 to take a 16-point halftime lead.
UCLA would close within six points in the fourth quarter. However, a determined unit wearing the Maroon and White halted the run there and made sure the senior class got victory No. 125 as a unit into the record books.
Victoria Vivians led the Bulldogs with 24 points. Teaira McCowan had her 27th double-double with 23 points and 21 rebounds. Morgan William added 17 points, while Roshunda Johnson had 12 points.
McCowan has had 20-plus points and 20-plus rebounds in the same game four times this season. The rebounding mark set a new career high as well as an NCAA Tournament rebounding record in a single regional game.
A Johnson 3-pointer capped an early 11-0 run as the Bulldogs quickly built a 17-6 lead. William would later hit a 3-pointer to put the Bulldogs on top 23-14.
MSU led 23-17 after one quarter.
In the second quarter, the Bulldogs held the Bruins to two field goals, including no field goals over the first seven minutes of the quarter, A layup by Jordan Danberry capped a 6-0 run and gave the Bulldogs a 38-22 lead.
MSU led 42-26 at halftime.
In the third quarter, the Bulldogs saw their 18-point lead cut in the half with 2:58 left to play. A 3-pointer by Blair Schaefer helped stem the tide.
MSU carried a 63-50 lead into the final quarter.
In that final period, a 9-0 run by the Bruins cut the deficit to 67-61 with 6:50 left. Again, Schaefer had a the big 3-point after the Bruins had pulled within six again about a minute later.
For the contest, MSU hit 29 of 58 shots from the field (50.0 percent), 8 of 13 shots from 3-point range (61.5 percent) and 23 of 27 shots from the foul line (85.2 percent). UCLA hit 25 of 67 shots from the field (37.3 percent), 6 of 19 shots from 3-point range (31.6 percent) and 17 of 20 shots from the foul line (85.0 percent).
MSU held a 39-33 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 15 assists and 11 turnovers, while the Bruins had 11 assists and 10 turnovers.
UCLA (27-8) received 23 points from Jordin Canada, 16 points from Japreece Dean and 12 points apiece from Kennedy Burke and Monique Billings. Canada also had a team-high eight rebounds for the Bruins.