It was a frustrating, tough, painful Sunday for Mississippi State University women's basketball, as they fell 88-84 to Oregon University in the Elite Eight round just shy of a third-straight Final Four appearance.
Despite a bitter end to careers and a season, head coach Vic Schaefer said he was proud of how his team has shaped the culture of MSU and Starkville.
"For us, my staff, that team in there is hurting. I am just really proud of them," Schafer said. "I told them they've impacted a community and a university unlike anything I've ever seen. We could all go through life and not have the opportunity nor the impact that these kids have had on a place like Mississippi State."
The loss ended the historic career of Teaira McCowan, senior forward from Brenham, Texas, whose presence anchored an MSU team who had lost four starters. While she said she was sad about the loss, she was still proud of where the team finished their season.
"A loss is a loss, you know. It doesn't feel good," McCowan said. "But I'm proud of my team, my coaching staff. We got this far, we had a great season. Nothing to hang our heads on. Yeah, it hurts, but we'll be okay."
For Anriel Howard, a graduate student from Atlanta, the loss meant her quest to win the national championship was cut short, but she found comfort in having already won two conference championships with the team and impacting the community in her time at MSU.
"Just to be able to get a feeling of that with this group of girls and this coaching staff and the community and the fans, all of that is something that is indescribable," Howard said. "It's definitely a blessing. I'm just really grateful for the opportunity that the coaches gave me, and the girls for welcoming me and the community, like I said. It's just been awesome."
Schaefer said the team played as hard as they could, but were unable to beat Oregon, losing to the Ducks for the second time this season. Schaefer said he took the blame for his team as the quest for a national title came up short again.
"I'm disappointed in myself that it didn't happen for us," Schaefer said. "I'll go back, I'll watch the film and I'll get better. I'll learn. But these kids, they did everything they could do. I mean, I couldn't be prouder of them. They fought their guts out today in a really difficult arena against a really good team."