For the first time ever, the South Carolina Gamecocks women’s basketball team are national champions. Carolina knocked off the Mississippi State Bulldogs for the third time this season to bring the NCAA championship trophy to Columbia in a 67-55 win.
Three thoughts on the game:
- Mississippi State started well and jumped out to a 7-1 lead. Carolina was able to get into the offense a little bit more with A’ja Wilson and Allisha Gray having strong first quarters. The Gamecocks ended the first quarter on a 17-7 run to take an 18-14 lead. The team shot 5-10 from the floor and got to the foul line often, shooting 8-10 from the charity stripe. The only thing Carolina could do in the first was get Kaela Davis going. She was hit a pair of free throws but did not hit a field goal.
- The second period was all Gamecocks. Mississippi State had a spell of 8+ minutes without a field goal and Carolina jumped out to a double-digit lead. The Bulldogs were able to get a few baskets before the half was over to keep the deficit around 10 points. Carolina held a 36-26 lead at the break with Wilson and Gray both on 11 points. It carried over into the start of the third quarter as Carolina built a 14 point lead. Dominique Dillingham got hot for the Bulldogs and brought them back into the game. At the end of the quarter she was on 11 points, good enough for second on the team. The Bulldogs stormed back to cut it to four points with under a minute remaining in the third, but Wilson responded with a bucket before Davis sunk a jumper before the buzzer to give Carolina an 8 point lead with 10 minutes remaining.
- The first five minutes of the final period went back and forth. The Bulldogs went on another mini-run to cut it to four before Wilson and Gray finished at the rim to push it back to an 8 point lead with under five minutes to play. At that point, Carolina held a 34-18 edge in the paint. After the Bulldogs’ timeout, the Gamecocks ran away with it, eventually opening up a 14 point lead to render the game effectively over.
Wilson led the Gamecocks with 23 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks en route to being named the game’s most outstanding player. Gray also finished with a double-double. She had 18 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks. Carolina dominated inside. Along with the huge margin in points in the paint, the Gamecocks out-rebounded the Bulldogs 40 to 28. That was the key to deliver Dawn Staley and South Carolina their first championship.