Published on April 4th, 2017 | by Landon Buford0
South Carolina Clinches First National Championship Against Mississippi State
DALLAS– The South Carolina Lady Gamecocks continued their Cinderella season, as they finished off the Mississippi State Bulldogs in a 67-55 victory in root to their first national championship on Sunday Night.
Behind its leading scorer Junior forward A’ja Wilson led three players in double figures with 23 points for the Gamecocks, which also was locked on the defensive side of the ball in its first appearance in the National Championship. Holding the Bulldogs to just 35 percent shooting from the floor and handing Mississippi State its 11th consecutive lost in a row and third this season.
“I really can’t even put into words the feeling of how much it meant to kind of just win this for a coach,” Wilson said. “She’s put in so much time, so much sweat, and just her voice and prepping for times like this.”
The Final Four Most Outstanding Player Wilson poured in six points during an 8-0 run throughout the final minutes of the fourth quarter in front of a Jam-packed sold out crowd over 19,000 fans. Her Final basket in that stretch produced a 66-52 lead with 1:39 to play, all but securing South Carolina’s 11th win a row to finish out the storybook season.
“It means that I can check off one of the things that had been a void in my career,” said South Carolina Coach Dawn Staley, who went to three Final Fours in a row as a player at Virginia from 1990 to 1992 but never reached a championship game. “When I couldn’t get, it done in college, I thought that was it.”
Staley also became the second African American coach in NCAA to win a women’s basketball national championship, joining Purdue’s Carolyn Peck as the only other coach to accomplished this achievement.
New York Times Sports reporter Jeré Longman asked After John Thompson became the first black men’s coach to win an N.C.A.A. basketball title at Georgetown in 1984, “more athletic directors would be more receptive to hiring African Americans women to coach teams?”
Staley said: “I don’t know what athletic directors will think about. I’m not one that looks at race. Basketball has been faceless and colorless and genderless when I approached it. I think athletic directors need to hire what’s best for them.”
She added: “If it’s an African-American male or female, then that’s who they should hire. If it’s somebody else who they feel can take their program to the next level, it must be the best fit for them, and not necessarily color-based.”
The Bulldogs faced their third number 1 seed in this NCAA tournament and had to navigate through a difficult path to get to the first Final Four in program history. In the regional finals in Oklahoma City, they beat the number 1 seed Baylor, 94-85, in overtime behind Williams’ career-high of 41 points. It has been a historical season for both schools as they represented the SEC with pride.