A loss that Geno Auriemma saw coming. Huskies fall in overtime in the Final Four to MSU.
As stunning as the UConn women’s season ending 66-64 overtime loss to Mississippi State was, the signs of a potential loss were never that far away during a remarkable season that saw a relatively young team overachieve on their way to a 36-0 record coming into play on Friday night.
Anyone who listened to head coach Geno Auriemma on a regular basis had heard that it was not a question of if this team would lose, it was when they would lose.
He would often explain that what this team was doing was not normal, they were playing over their heads, maturity and skill levels at times.
It was hard for the casual fan of the game to digest this, considering all the Huskies did was go out and beat most team’s brains in on a regular basis but on several occasions, the signs were there that a night like Friday night could happen.
UConn held on for dear life in their season opening win over Florida State in a game they could have dropped if a last second three pointer had found its mark and against Tulane late in the regular season, the Huskies shot just 38 percent from the floor for the game and struggled at the free throw line (19-28), before escaping with a 63-60 win.
On Friday night, the four time defending champs attempted just 18 shots in the entire first half, connecting on just eight as they went into the locker room down 26-18, the largest deficit they had faced all year.
In overtime, the Huskies attempted seven shots but connected on just one while missing two of four free throws (17-25 for the game).
The Bulldogs last second miracle shot by Morgan Williams sent shock waves throughout women’s basketball in a way not seen in a very long time.
A late turnover by senior Saniya Chong may have given the Bulldogs a shot at the win but this game was not lost on that play but won by a highly motivated MSU team.
Give large volumes of credit to the Bulldogs who used a humiliating 60-point loss last year in the Bridgeport Regionals as motivation and had a terrific game plan going in, focusing on junior Gabby Williams and her ability to be a facilitator.
Williams led the team in assists this year with 190 but had just two in the semifinal while committing five turnovers.
As a team, the Huskies turned the ball over 17 times to the Bulldogs 14, a rarity for any UConn team.
Combine that with an unusually off shooting night by Napheesa Collier (4 of 11) and a 43.5 percent overall shooting percentage and the recipe for a loss where right there and the Bulldogs made sure to mix them correctly in order to come away with the win.
A sell-out crowd of 19,202 witnessed something historic and unexpected, especially considering the underdog came in facing a 29.5 point spread against them.
This has been an NCAA Tournament that has seen its fair share of upsets, with names like Notre Dame, Maryland, Baylor and now UConn out of the mix before the final game.
The only top seed left, South Carolina, will play Mississippi Stare on Sunday night at 6:30 as the women’s game will have a new champion for the first time in five seasons.
It had been said all year that if a team was to get UConn, they better do it this year before a team that helped build the programs 111 game winning streak got even better next year when Duke transfer Azura Stevens and a talented freshman class come on board.
The Bulldogs managed to do what most thought was impossible and hats off to them for doing just that.
Count on Auriemma and his coaching staff to utilize this loss in a similar way that MSU head coach Vic Schaefer had used that 60-point blowout a season ago.
There is never any guarantee that a team is going to find their way back to this point, in the Final Four even though UConn just did it for the tenth straight time.
On paper, the Huskies look unstoppable in 2017/2018 but don’t tell that to teams who just watched the smallest player on the court take down the biggest foe in women’s basketball.
The kind of game that Auriemma predicted would happen at some points just happened to come at the very worse time.
NOTES: This marks the fourth time the Huskies have lost an NCAA game in overtime in four attempts.
It also marks the first time we a LCS have covered a loss in person as Rich Elliott is in Dallas reporting for us.
UConn came in averaging over 90 points per game and finish the season scoring 87.1 per game.
Their two All-Americans, Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson shot a combined 9 for 21 with Collier scoring nearly ten points below her season average with just 11 points.
Samuelson scored 15 after scoring just eight in the UConn win over Oregon in the finals of the Bridgeport Regionals.
UConn lost the battle of the boards, 37-31.
Williams led all scorers with 21 points to go with her eight rebounds.