William, Mississippi State women earn 1st Final Four berth
By CLIFF BRUNT
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Morgan William gave her late stepfather the ultimate tribute.
The 5-foot-5 point guard scored a career-high 41 points and second-seeded Mississippi State upset top-seeded Baylor 94-85 in overtime Sunday night to reach the Final Four for the first time.
The win came three years and a day after William's stepfather, Donnie Rory, passed away. After she was named Most Outstanding Player of the regional, she dedicated the victory and the performance to him.
"He's the reason I am where I am today with basketball," she said. "He just did so much for me, working out when I was younger. He had no doubt because of my height. We put in so much work in the gym. For me to just come out here and do this, it's amazing. I just wish he was here to see it."
William scored 10 points in the fourth quarter and 12 points in overtime to set school and Southeastern Conference records for most points in an NCAA Tournament game. She made 13 of 22 shots, including 6 of 8 3-pointers. She also had seven assists and no turnovers.
Victoria Vivians scored 24 points and Teaira McCowan added 10 for Mississippi State (33-4) in a game that featured 24 lead changes.
Kalani Brown scored 27 points and Nina Davis had 18 for Baylor (33-4), which lost in the Elite Eight for the fourth consecutive year.
"At Baylor, we have expectations that are higher than an Elite Eight," Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. "Whether that's egotistical, fair, whatever, it is what it is. We have to keep feeding that monster that we started 17 years ago."
Davis, one of the most decorated players in school history, played in all four of those Elite Eight losses. She thought this one would turn out differently.
"Every time we would get the lead, they would come down and shoot a 3, we would foul, and could never get that one stop that we needed," she said.
William's layup with 22 seconds left in regulation forced overtime. Mississippi State outscored Baylor 19-10 in the extra period.
"It took a gut-check, gut-wrenching performance by our kids today and we delivered," Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer said. "I thought our kids were unflappable. I thought they were resilient. They showed tremendous toughness, a lot of character in their heart."
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs ended last season with a 60-point loss to Connecticut in the Sweet 16. This season, the Bulldogs took it a step further by reaching the Elite Eight for the first time, then beat Baylor, a women's basketball power. The Bulldogs have talked about not getting respect along the way. This victory should boost the program's image.
Baylor: It was more disappointment for the Lady Bears at this stage as a top seed. They were a No. 1 seed in 2011 and lost in the Elite Eight and a top seed last year when they lost to Oregon State in the regional final.
Mississippi State overcame Baylor's 53 percent shooting, in part by committing just four turnovers. On the other end, the Bulldogs scored 20 points off Baylor's 17 turnovers.
"Seventeen turnovers to four, you shouldn't even be in the ballgame, not at the Elite Eight level," Mulkey said. "But we hung around and hung in there."
Brown did all she could for Baylor. The 6-foot-7 sophomore center made 11 of 13 shots and had nine rebounds and five blocks.
"They were denying me the ball," she said. "That was pretty much it. They made it hard for me to get open. They made it hard for me to get post touches."
OKLAHOMA CITY CURSE?
Baylor's season has ended with NCAA Tournament losses in Oklahoma City in 2013, 2015 and 2017. The Lady Bears also lost the Big 12 championship game in Oklahoma City this season.
Mulkey, on Mississippi State's good fortune: "I knew we were in trouble when they were hitting bank-shot 3s to start the game when the shot clock was winding down. What do you do?"
Mississippi State will play Connecticut or Oregon in the Final Four.
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP .
Updated March 26, 2017