South Carolina captured its first national championship in women’s basketball by knocking off SEC rival Mississippi State, 67-55, on Sunday night.
The Gamecocks (33-4) beat the Bulldogs for the third time this season as they were led by junior forward A’ja Wilson with 23 points. The win also marks the first national championship for South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley. Besides coaching the Gamecocks to the Final Four two seasons ago, Staley also played in three Final Fours when she went to Virginia but she was never able to win a championship until Sunday.
Mississippi State (34-5) was riding high after Friday night’s shocking overtime win over previously-unbeaten UConn but tournament standout Morgan William was held to only eight points. The Bulldogs were paced by junior guard Victoria Vivians with 12 points while senior guard Dominique Dillingham added 11 points.
South Carolina once again played without starting senior center Alaina Coates after she injured her ankle during the SEC Tournament but others picked up the slack for the Gamecocks on Sunday. Junior guard Allisha Gray finished with 18 points for South Carolina while junior guard Kaela Davis chipped in 10 points.
With only three seniors on the roster, the Gamecocks will be in strong position to make another deep tournament run next season as they’ve advanced to at least the Sweet 16 in four consecutive seasons. While UConn and head coach Geno Auriemma will once again be a major factor next season, Staley has built South Carolina into one of the strongest programs in women’s college basketball as this title is a major step for the Gamecocks.