COLUMBUS, OHIO – Despite the slow start, Mississippi State University women’s basketball team (37-1) found themselves in overtime during the National Semifinal once again, this year against University of Louisville Cardinals (36-3).
It took four minutes for junior center Teaira McCowan to get MSU's first basket of the game, and this was after the Cardinals' took a 6-0 lead. Despite the slow start, MSU outlasted Louisville 73-63, punching their ticket to the NCAA Women’s National Championship for the second year in a row.
By the end of the first quarter, the Lady Bulldogs gained their first lead of the night, pulling ahead of the Cardinals 13-11.
Throughout the second quarter, MSU struggled handling the ball. By the end of the first half, the Bulldogs regained the lead 31-30 with help from senior guard Victoria Vivians.
Despite her under-performing in the first quarter, Vivians, of Carthage, changed the game in favor of the Bulldogs.
“I just feel like I had slow down and focus and be mature about what I was doing at the time because my team needed me," Vivians said.
The third quarter proved lackluster for the Bulldogs. They came up short after a valiant effort with a three-pointer by Vivians late in the third, which was quickly answered by a Louisville three-pointer as the buzzer sounded. This left the Bulldogs going into the last quarter down by two.
Things looked grim for MSU in the fourth quarter. Down three with 11 seconds left in the game, it seemed all hope was lost and the Bulldogs would return to Starkville in time for Easter. The season was saved with a three-pointer by Roshunda Johnson to force the game into overtime. Johnson was having an off night up to this point, but came through when it mattered most.
“Coach wrote up an excellent play, and we just had to go out and execute it," Johnson said. "When I hit the shot, it made me one and three (from three)."
Louisville’s head coach Jeff Walz noted Johnson’s shot as “the biggest shot of her career.”
The stand out player for the Bulldogs was Teaira McCowan, who grabbed 25 rebounds, scored 18 points and played all 45 minutes.
When asked about her phenomenal performance, especially when it comes to rebounds, McCowan said, “Coach always says to go get them all, so that’s what I did.”
Overtime slowly turned into what Vivians said the Bulldogs called “our time,” and took over the game to turn the outcome in MSU’s favor.
MSU’s head coach Vic Schaefer notes Jordan Danberry’s performance as one of the secret weapons of the night, as her performance in overtime was the turning point for the Bulldogs. The junior accumulated four rebounds and 10 points within 26 minutes of play.
“At the end of the night, Jordan (Danberry) really was the difference I think in a lot of areas for us, both ends obviously," Schaefer said.
MSU will play their last game of the season in the NCAA Women's National Championship at 5 p.m. Sunday in Columbus, Ohio, against the University of Notre Dame.