COLUMBUS, Ohio – Once Roshunda Johnson hit the tying 3-pointer with 7 seconds left in regulation and Teaira McCowan forced a miss on the other end, Mississippi State knew it was in good shape.
“We know we’re an overtime team,” All-American guard Victoria Vivians said.
Especially in the Final Four.
McCowan had 21 points and a Final Four-record 25 rebounds, Vivians scored 25 points, and Mississippi State reached the national championship game for the second straight year with a 73-63 overtime win over Louisville on Friday night.
After Johnson’s jumper, Louisville’s Myisha Hines-Allen then drove the length of the floor but missed a layup with McCowan defending her.
In overtime, the Bulldogs asserted themselves and Morgan William, who hit the winning shot in OT last year in the Final Four to end UConn’s 111-game winning streak, made two free throws in the last minute to help Mississippi State (37-1) pull away.
Louisville (36-3) managed just one basket on 10 shots in the extra period.
McCowan broke the rebounding mark set by Charlotte Smith of North Carolina in 1994 when Mississippi State’s 6-foot-7 center grabbed her 24th board.
“She’s done that all year against the best competition,” Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer said. “She did it again tonight on the biggest stage.”
The Cardinals were hurt when center Sam Fuehring was called for a technical foul with 2:42 left in the fourth quarter when she slapped the floor after getting called for a foul. She fouled out on that technical. The Cardinals were down 54-53 and William hit both free throws to give the Bulldogs a three-point lead.
“It’s a shame it has to come down to that,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. “It was a five-point swing. So it impacted the game.”
Louisville came back to take a 59-56 advantage on Hines-Allen’s layup with 11 seconds left, setting up the exciting finish in regulation.
Asia Durr scored 18 for Louisville (36-3), which was making its third appearance in the Final Four. Jazmine Jones added 15 in a game in which the lead changed 15 times.
“It was really tough,” Jones said. “They have great guards up and down their team. Victoria (Vivians), she’s a great player. She was an All-American. It was really tough guarding her. And their 3-point shooters, because they can spread out the floor while driving. So it was really tough tonight.”
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