Rankin: Schaefer sitting Final Four hero Morgan William hard to figure

Not only does Mississippi State know the SC personnel and coaching style, but there seems to be an incredible emotional lift from these last two games that should carry it forward on its mission.

"This was about two basketball teams", Mississippi St. basketball coach, Vic Schaefersaid.

"This team's been really good about on to the next one", Schaefer said.

The second weekend brought a win over #3 seed Washington in the Sweet Sixteen and an upset of top seeded Baylor in the Elite Eight.

The Bulldogs returned to form on the defensive end and battled back into the contest in the third quarter. After Friday's game, he made a point of seeking out William and telling her, "You deserve everything that's coming your way". You make shots over Gabby Williams, 5-foot-11 with the best leaping ability in college basketball, and questions about getting your shot off have a tendency to disappear. "We're very proud of that".

MSU's junior point guard Morgan William takes ownership for most of it.

Nigel Williams-Goss scored 23 points, Gonzaga's big men combined for 27 and the Bulldogs used some last-second strategy for a 77-73 victory over SC on Saturday in a matchup of first-time teams at the Final Four. William finished with 13, forward Breanna Richardson added 12 and forward Teaira McCowan pitched in 10.

The first two games between these two were peanuts compared to what's up for grabs this evening. She's pretty good at drawing fouls.

"She had to learn how to control the pace of the game", Jackson-Durrett said. Or I can put myself in a position where I play U-Conn. again and this time be completely different.

MARTIN: Going into this game, did you have it in your head that this possibility might occur?

"She knew the game plan was to make it hard for Morgan to operate in areas in which she could control their team".

SC was paced by SEC Player of the Year, A'ja Wilson, who finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds. After failed possessions by both teams, UConn had the ball set to inbound with 26.6 left to play trailing by 2. The team responded and has averaged over 87 points per game in the NCAA tournament. She's 6'5, long and athletic creating major problems for her opponents.

William spent the summer allowing her body to return to normal, then hit the weight room, seeing the number 60 written in magic marker on two windows as she worked out all throughout the fall, representing the 98-38 loss to CT last March. "She's physical, she's a constant worker". William's touching story, and her effectiveness despite being just 5-foot-5, had made her the breakout star of this women's tournament. "If we win, we're in the stands kissing babies and mamas", Schaefer had said. "We've had two knockdown, drag-outs with them". "That's probably too big of a stage for us to rely on her to play heavy minutes". They lack size and depth, they are comprised of players in new roles, they are young and untested.

Mississippi State cut the deficit to 54-50 when Jazz Holmes hit a jumper with 6:52 left, but the Gamecocks went on a decisive 8-0 run in a span of more than three minutes to pull away. The former Texas A&M Secretary of Defense spoke those words back in June of 2012 not long after he put his first Bulldog squad through some off of the court preparations. William wasn't in foul trouble, and she wasn't injured. None of the players were happy with their performance, especially offensively.

Until the end of time, MSU will be the one in 111-1. "There was so much at stake for us, and we blew the opportunity". We've beaten two No. 1's to get here. "Because of that, these three right here (Vivians, Richardson and William at the postgame press conference) and the rest of their teammates, they've kind of been on a little bit of a mission".

The Bulldogs (34-4) will play SC for the national championship Sunday night in a matchup of two SEC teams.

With the whole world now watching, the Bulldogs (34-4) can make their mark and earn the right to be the best of the best. "We talked about that with our kids".

"It felt like we won it all when we won that game", William said, "but we know we didn't". "But I promise you it'll be a lot better tomorrow when we win".

Still, it was hard to grasp that their epic run, which had encompassed four straight national championships, was done.