By:Sean Williams:|4.0 Sports Media
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Louisville’s season ended Friday night with a 73-63 overtime loss to Mississippi State in the Final Four at Nationwide Arena, squashing the Cardinals’ hopes of advancing to a third national championship game.
The Bulldogs erased a six-point deficit and grabbed a 54-53 lead with just over three minutes left in the game behind a strong performances by Victoria Vivians and Teaira McCowan.
Myisha Hines-Allen for Louisville made a layup with 11.3 seconds left to play in regulation, but the Cardinals elected not to foul on the next possession. Roshunda Johnson who came off a screen hit a wide open 3-pointer to tie the game 59-59 before Jazmine Jones’ would-be game-winner rolled off the rim at the buzzer.
Th Cardinals went scoreless in overtime until Asia Durr hit two free throws with 58 seconds remaining, but Louisville turned over the ball twice at crucial moments and MSU went 7 for 11 at the charity stripe to secure a second consecutive trip to the championship game.
Louisville finishes the season with a program best 36 wins. The Cardinals has played in two overtime games this season and both have been in Columbus (vs. Ohio State, on 11/27/17 W, 95-90 and tonight vs. Mississippi State).
MSU scored back-to-back field goals at the 7:12 mark of the second quarter. In all the Cardinals went 105 minutes and three seconds without giving up back-to-back field goals in the NCAA Tournament.
“Just first want to congratulate Vic and Mississippi State. What a great ball game. I mean, back and forth runs by both teams. It was a great ball game. I thought we competed, we played our hearts out. I thought they played their hearts out. Just an unbelievable basketball game.” Louisville head coach Jeff Walz said.
After the Bulldogs ended the opening quarter up two points, the Cardinals went on a 6-0 run over 1:18 to take a 21-20 lead midway through second quarter, but MSU ended the quarter on a 5-0 run to claim the lead at the break.
Following the back-to-back Mississippi State baskets to put the Bulldogs up 20-15 at the 7:12 mark of the second quarter, Louisville used a 12-2 run to take a 27-22 lead at the 2:56 mark of the second quarter.
The Bulldogs and Cardinals traded leads in the first half, but the gap never widened to greater than two possessions. Louisville’s largest advantage of the half was six points, and Mississippi State’s was five.
Trailing 39-34 at the 6:09 mark of the third quarter, the Cardinals scored 14 of the next 21 points, including back-to-back 3-pointers (with one at the buzzer of the third quarter) by Asia Durr to take a 48-46 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Even though the Cardinals kept the game close they had a problem keeping McCowan off the glass. Louisville’s defense limited Mississippi State to 40-percent shooting to neutralize the Bulldogs’ advantages on the glass and in the paint, Vivians fouled out with 25 points and McCowan posted a double-double with 21 points and 25 rebounds.
In a game with 14 lead changes in the game, the result came down to Mississippi State’s momentum and execution on both ends of the floor in overtime. MSU’S Jordan Danberry locked up Durr in the second half after senior guard Blair Shaefer went down with an injury.
No one scored on the game’s first five possessions, and Durr opened the scoring two minutes in with a four-point play after she was fouled while shooting a 3-pointer.
Asia Durr for Louisville exploded for 10 points in the second half of regulation. She finished with 18 points for the Cardinals. Durr finished with 18 points and moved into sixth on the Cardinals all-time career scoring list. She now has 1,743 career points.
The Bulldogs maintained an 18-16 edge on the offensive boards thanks largely to 6-foot-7 center McCowan, who pulled down nine total rebounds in the first half and finished with 25 boards, 13 on the offensive end.
Louisville ended the game at a rebounding disadvantage overall, although Arica Carter had a career-high seven boards.
Mississippi State is now 20-10 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, including 14-4 under head coach Vic Shaefer. The Bulldogs improves on its school-record wins in a season with a 37-1 overall record. The MSU seniors now have 126 wins in the last four seasons, the most by a class in school history.
“Wow, so proud of my team today, as I have been all year. We talk about when things get a little bit tough and too tough for most people, when it gets really, really hard, that’s when it gets about right for us. Today was pretty tough. You’re down three with, I don’t know, 11 or 12 seconds left and not much — you’re going to have to do something right, and a lot of people are going to have to do it right. I thought we executed really well on a sideline out of bounds play. We put Blair in and ran her out, and the whole team seemed to run with her as a decoy. We put Ro out on the back side, and Tea really set a tremendous screen for her, but you’ve still got to make the shot. I thought, obviously, when you’re in that position, there’s a lot of things you’ve got to do well in that spot. Mississippi State head coach Vic Shaefer said.
Up next: Mississippi State advances to the national championship game at 6 p.m. Sunday on ESPN and will face either Connecticut or Notre Dame.