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Mississippi State Stuns UConn in Final Four Upset, 66-64

The Huskies perfect season and winning streak ends in heartbreaking fashion.

Morgan William puts up the game-winning shot over Gabby Williams.
Ian Bethune for The UConn Blog

The entire world believed this UConn team was invincible.

111 straight wins? 4 straight national championships? Done. This team was mortal all season but showed it for the first time Friday night in the evening’s second semifinal.

In one of the biggest upsets in the history of organized sports, the Mississippi State Bulldogs upended top-seeded UConn in overtime with an incredible buzzer-beater by Morgan William.

Mississippi State earned the win, this was no fluke. The Bulldogs outplayed UConn from the start. They forced the Huskies into a game they weren’t comfortable with and never backed down even when UConn cut it close.

In the final minute, Katie Lou Samuelson was hit in the neck by Dominique Dillingham. At the next stoppage, with the Huskies down two, the officials reviewed the play and called a flagrant foul, giving UConn two shots. Samuelson drained both free throws to tie the game with 26 seconds left.

On the ensuing possession, Saniya Chong drove to the hoop and threw up an ill-advised shot in traffic that fell harmlessly out of bounds with 12 seconds left. Mississippi State had the ball and a chance to end it.

With very little time remaining, William hit the shot and slung the rock with knocked down Goliath. Even Geno had no choice but to appreciate it.

From the beginning, the Bulldogs played with confidence and never allowed UConn to get into a rhythm. The Huskies had no flow offensively and could not keep Mississippi State off the offensive boards. They allowed 18 second-chance points on 14 offensive rebounds and the Bulldogs had way more possessions.

One of the biggest concerns all season for UConn was execution down the stretch under fire, especially if games got close. During the streak, they played in just three games that were decided by single-digits. In all of those games, the Huskies were visibly nervous in the final minutes. Tonight they had that same scared look but for the entire game.

Without Gabby Williams, the game would have gotten out of hand rather quickly. She led the team with 21 points and kept the Huskies in it throughout. She scored seven of the Huskies’ first 10 points and, as the rest of the team stumbled, carried them to keep the game competitive.

When Mississippi State had the last possession of regulation and a chance to win, Williams blocked Morgan William’s shot to sent the game into overtime.

Unfortunately, her performance alone was not enough. The rest of the team looked tired and the Huskies’ thin bench eventually caught up to them. UConn did themselves no favors by shooting just 68 percent from the charity stripe, far below their norm.

While the loss is disappointing, it’s easy to forget this was supposed to be a rebuilding season for UConn after losing the top three players in 2016’s WNBA Draft. Nobody expected they would get through their non-conference schedule undefeated or that they would be the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately, reality hit for them in the Final Four.

While most hoped the loss would come during the regular season, the Final Four hosts the country’s hottest teams. The Huskies ran into a team that was not only on fire but motivated after a 60-point loss to the Huskies in the Sweet Sixteen last season.

This loss will hurt But with nearly the entire team coming back, along with the No. 1 recruiting class in the country, UConn will be back with a vengeance. If Geno Auriemma has anything to say about, this game will be the fuel for next season’s march to a 12th national championship and another winning streak.

The UConn starting five and Crystal Dangerfield postgame:

Geno Auriemma, Kia Nurse, Gabby Williams Postgame (starts at 14:15):