For the first time in four years, women’s college basketball has a new top team and it wears garnet and black. The South Carolina women’s basketball team is the new national champion, winning a national title for the first time in program history.
The Gamecocks beat Mississippi State 67-55 in Dallas on Sunday afternoon, completing the run through the postseason all the way to the crown in Dawn Staley’s ninth season.
USC made the whole run without senior center Alaina Coates, who missed the NCAA Tournament with an ankle injury. But what the Gamecocks had was more than enough — and all of it is expected back next season.
Junior forward A’ja Wilson led the Gamecocks with 23 points, while Allisha Gray — the star against Stanford on Friday in the Final Four — again came up huge for South Carolina with 18 points.
When the moment mattered most, it was the pair of Wilson and Gray that proved to be the difference as the duo hit back-to-back hoops after the Bulldogs cut the lead to 4 in the fourth quarter.
In the third meeting between the two teams this season, South Carolina jumped out to a lead late in the first quarter with a 6-0 run. The Gamecocks would never trail again, but the evening wasn’t without its tense moments.
Mississippi State had a huge third-quarter push left in the tank, started by three straight points from star Victoria Vivians. The Bulldogs rattled off a 9-0 run to cut South Carolina’s lead from 14 down to 5 late in the third quarter, but USC had the answer it needed to live through the run.
Wilson made a short jumper and Kaela Davis capped the third quarter with a buzzer-beating jumper to extend the lead back to 8, but the Bulldogs had another run left.
MSU scored four straight to cut the lead down to 4 with 6:52 to play. Wilson had the necessary answer again, swatting away an MSU shot and getting a good bounce on a short jumper to send USC to a 6-point advantage. Then it was Gray with a jumper to lift the Gamecocks back to safety and off to the national title.