COLUMBUS, Ohio. (WTVA/MSU Athletics) - When the last day of the women’s basketball season arrives, Mississippi State will be on the dance floor for a second straight season.
MSU survived an epic marathon Friday night, beating Louisville 73-63 in overtime in the opening game of the NCAA Tournament’s Final Four being played at Nationwide Arena.
MSU (37-1) will face either Notre Dame (33-3) or Connecticut (36-0) at 5 p.m. CT Sunday for the national championship on ESPN. The Bulldogs are back in the title game for a second straight season after becoming the first team ever to win two Final Four semifinal games in overtime.
“So proud of my team and have been all year,” MSU head coach Vic Schaefer said. “When things get too tough for most people, it’s a time that is just right for us. When you are down three late in a game, you have to have a lot of people do everything just right. In this game, we had a lot of people do things just right tonight.”
Things looked bleak for the Bulldogs late. However, Roshunda Johnson hit a game-tying 3-pointer with seven seconds left in regulations. The Cardinals then missed two shots in the paint, forcing the game into overtime.
Victoria Vivians scored a 3-pointer to get overtime started and the Bulldogs did not trail in the extra five minutes. The Bulldogs even survived Vivians fouling out early in the overtime.
Vivians led the Bulldogs with 25 points, while Teaira McCowan collected her NCAA-best 28th double-double with 21 points and a career-high 25 rebounds. The rebound total also set a new Final Four record.
Jordan Danberry, who came up big in 26 minutes off the bench, added 10 points and a critical steal late to preserve the victory. Morgan William also had 10 points.
Louisville scored the game’s first six points but after that both teams gained some traction and a defensive masterpiece began to play out.
The Bulldogs scored the final six points of the first quarter to take a 13-11 lead.
Vivians scored back-to-back baskets as the Bulldogs stretched the lead to 20-15 midway through the second quarter.
Louisville responded with a 12-2 run for a 27-22 lead.
The Bulldogs then plowed back ahead with a layup by Vivians running the half out with the Bulldogs on top, 31-30.
MSU held the lead for most of the third quarter. However, the Cardinals finished with a flurry for a 48-46 lead after three quarters.
Louisville stretched the lead to seven at 53-46 with 7:14 left. A layup by Vivians, defensive rebound and layup by Danberry helped kickstart a 10-0 run by the Bulldogs.
Louisville received and led by three before the Bulldogs’ perfect execution coming out of a time for Johnson’s game-tying basket.
For the contest, MSU hit 25 of 62 shots from the field (40.3 percent), 4 of 15 shots from 3-point range (26.7 percent) and 19 of 25 shots from the foul line (76.0 percent). Louisville hit 27 of 70 shots from the field (38.6 percent), 4 of 20 shots from 3-point range (20.0 percent) and 5 of 7 shots from the foul line (71.4 percent).
MSU held a 46-38 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had nine assists and 15 turnovers, while the Cardinals had seven assists and 11 turnovers.
Louisville (36-3) received 18 points from Asia Durr, 15 points from Jazmine Jones and 11 points from Myisha Hines-Allen. Jones had a team-high nine rebounds for the Cardinals.