Call it one for the ages, as the Bulldogs come away with a hard earned victory that took anything and everything against the Cardinals. Coach Vic Schaefer preached defense and toughness all year long and it was on full display under the primetime lights. It was a fight that went down to wire, as Mississippi State left each and every bit on the floor. It took, dominance, experience, leadership, trust, an unsung hero, and a record breaking performance, all of which are boxes Mississippi State has checked and perfected.
Teaira McCowan was a force to be reckoned with, as she set a Final Four record and career-high 25 rebounds. She posted yet another double-double that included 21 points along with three blocks. McCowan has been the game’s best down low, and ruled the paint throughout. She played every minute and wasted no time on both ends of the floor.
McCowan also managed to stay out of foul trouble, as she picked up just one personal on the night. She was unafraid and played like a woman possessed. There was nothing that was going to get in her way, as McCowan took it right to Louisville. McCowan’s attitude and fight has lifted the Bulldogs, as she took kicked it into an even higher gear in overtime, with an and-one layup to slam the door.
Victoria Vivians put on a scoring clinic, as her 25 points did not come easy. Vivians’ coaches and teammates had full trust in her, as she has become the game’s most reliable on offense. The senior guard put every bit of her four-year campaign into tonight’s victory and has plenty more in store for Sunday’s National Championship.
Vivians lit up Nationwide Arena and was determined to make the most of each opportunity. She has changed the culture at Mississippi State on and off the court, and it has shown all year. Vivians’ confidence is sky high, as the look in her eye is one that only so many possess. The Bulldogs are one game away, and Vivians’ offensive mindset and/or prowess has and will continue to be at its absolute best.
The game was full of lead changes and breathtaking moments, but none could top Roshunda “Ro” Johnson’s game-tying 3-pointer with 0:06 left in the fourth. Johnson has been one of Mississippi State’s best from distance, and it was only fitting that she nailed a shot of that magnitude. The Oklahoma State senior transfer has been a versatile Swiss Army knife for the Bulldogs, as she took advantage of the most lethal weapon in her arsenal.
Johnson was quiet for the majority of the game, as her stat line read just four points. That said, she was more than formidable on defense. In addition, Blair Schaefer did not score, but was also a defensive nightmare for Louisville. Johnson’s three will be one to remember for years to come, as she was unfazed and more than willing to take over at the perfect time.
Morgan “Itty bitty” William scored in double-digits yet again, as her stat line read 10 points, two rebounds, four assists, a block, and a steal. William is Mississippi State’s best free-throw shooter, and came up big for the Bulldogs late at the line. Itty bitty was also on point defensively, as she looked to have jumped out of Nationwide Arena to deflect a Louisville pass, resulting in free throws from Mississippi State’s unsung hero.
William has become the face of March Madness and is sure to continue her stellar play on Sunday. She may only be 5’5”, but William plays about a foot taller. Perhaps small has become the new big, in that William has proven that size does not matter. She has come up big time and time again, and make no mistake that William will have something to say on the championship stage.
As mentioned above, the Bulldogs’ new unsung hero came to play made and had herself a game, ultimately making her name known to those in and around the basketball world. Jordan Danberry’s 10 points, four rebounds, one assist, and three steals stole the show. Whether it be clutch free-throws, steals, or just plain grit and tenacity, Danberry has asserted herself as one of the Bulldogs’ primary faces going forward.
Each year, a new gem is found in March, and this year it is Danberry. She knows what time it is and will shine even brighter on Sunday. Coach Vic and her teammates are well aware of her game and toughness on both ends of the floor. She has proven her ability to change the pace and/or tone of a game, as her name will be well known on and off the floor come the championship game.
The Bulldogs embraced the moment and simply wanted it more . They were tough, tenacious, and most of all confident. There is a certain mentality with this team, as Mississippi State is one away from the ultimate goal.