Before Friday night’s national semifinal game, the Mississippi State women’s basketball coach gave an unusual motivational speech.
“I will not be scared,” Vic Schaefer told his players. “There is no reason to be scared. You are one heck of a basketball team.”
The tactic makes more sense in light of the opponent: 36-0 University of Connecticut, riding a 111-game winning streak that included a 60-point thrashing of Mississippi State in last year’s Sweet 16. At the time, it was the worst defeat in tournament history.
On Friday night, Mississippi wiped all that away, prevailing 66-64 on Morgan William’s overtime buzzer-beater. Connecticut hadn’t lost since Nov. 17, 2014.
The Lady Bulldogs came right at the Huskies from the start, doubling up Connecticut 27-13 early in the second quarter and taking a 36-28 lead into halftime. That was just the second time all season, and the fourth time in the Huskies’ lengthy winning streak, that the team had trailed at the half.
It was Connecticut that was playing scared, coach Geno Auriemma told his players at halftime, junior forward Gabby Williams said.
Auriemma, making his 10th straight appearance in the Final Four, said earlier in the day that this year’s team lacked killer instinct, KERA’s Gus Contreras reported.