UConn women's 111-game winning streak ends, Miss St wins at buzzer

UConn women's 111-game winning streak ends, Miss St wins at buzzer

DALLAS -- When the final shot beat the buzzer and UConn's record streak was over, Geno Auriemma had to smile.

After all the winning, the Huskies coach could appreciate a thrilling victory -- even from the other side.

UConn's 111-game run came to a stunning end when Mississippi State pulled off perhaps the biggest upset in women's basketball history, winning 66-64 on Morgan William's overtime jumper in the national semifinals Friday night.

"You know what? When stuff like this happens, it kind of makes me shake my head and go, `You know how many times this could have happened and it didn't happen?'" Auriemma said. "The fact that it never happened, that doesn't mean I went home thinking it's never going to happen. I knew this was coming at some point."

"I'm just shocked that it took this long to get here," he said.

The Huskies hadn't lost in 865 days, with that defeat coming to Stanford in overtime on Nov. 17, 2014. Winning had become routine, often by routs. But in an instant, their drive toward a fifth consecutive national championship had been blocked.

When William's jumper dropped, Auriemma broke into that wry smile. He turned to his bench, then went to congratulate the Bulldogs.

"I just kind of shook my head. This kid's had an incredible run," Auriemma said. "When it went in, it was almost like, of course. Of course, it's going to go in."

"Look, nobody's won more than we've won," he said. "I understand losing, believe it or not. We haven't lost in a while, but I understand it. I know how to appreciate when other people win."

It took an incredible shot by Mississippi State's diminutive point guard to end the historic streak.

William hit a 15-footer to cap it, moments after a replay review awarded UConn two free throws for a flagrant 1 foul call that tied the game with 26.6 seconds left.

"I live for moments like this," William said. "UConn, they're an incredible team. For me to make that shot against them, it's unbelievable. I'm still in shock right now. I wanted to take the shot. I wanted to take the shot and I made it."

William's shot came one game after she scored a career-high 41 points to help Mississippi State beat Baylor and advance to its first Final Four.

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

Mississippi State and UConn met in the Sweet 16 last season and the Huskies won by 60 points -- the most-lopsided win in regional semifinals history. All season long the Bulldogs had that humiliating loss on their minds.

Now they've erased that defeat, beating UConn (36-1) on the grandest stage in one of the sport's greatest games.

"I don't have to play them 100 times. Only have to beat them once," Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer said. "That is one heck of a basketball team, the greatest of all-time. But how proud am I of my kids?"

Mississippi State led 64-62 before a replay review gave Katie Lou Samuelson the two free throws that tied the game. After a UConn turnover, William held the ball at the top of the key before dribbling to her right and pulling up for the shot, with the ball in the air when the buzzer sounded.

The Bulldogs ran onto the court, piling up at center court while UConn players stood stone-faced. Schaefer grabbed William in a bear hug, with former Mississippi State star Dak Prescott -- the Dallas Cowboys quarterback -- helping lead the cheers in a sellout crowd.

Prescott said he'd try to come back Sunday for the title game.

UConn rallied from a 16-point deficit, its biggest during its NCAA record streak, to take a 59-56 lead in the fourth quarter. The teams were tied at 60 when the Bulldogs had a chance to win it in regulation, but William's shot was blocked by Gabby Williams, sending the game into overtime.

"Maybe we're just not ready for this. Maybe we were ready for everything else, but maybe we're just not mature enough for this," Auriemma said. "Maybe all our young kids needed to experience this so that we can come back and really be ready for this."

Neither team scored much in OT with Teaira McCowan's layup with 1:12 left in the extra session breaking a 62-62 tie. It was the lone basket for Mississippi State in OT until William's game-winner.

During their last two decades of dominance where they've won 11 national championships, the Huskies rarely found themselves trailing -- let alone by double-digits. This was the first time this season that UConn was losing in the fourth quarter.

The Bulldogs got off to a great start, taking it right at the Huskies like not many teams had done during the streak. The Bulldogs led 15-13 before scoring 14 straight points to go up 29-13. It was the biggest deficit UConn had faced during its historic streak and one of the largest during the last 22 years, which the Huskies have dominated with 11 national championships.

The Huskies rallied to within 29-25 as senior Saniya Chong scored seven points during a 12-0 run. Mississippi State answered and was up 36-28 at the half.

UConn came back in the third quarter behind its trio of All-Americans with Williams, Napheesa Collier and Samuelson keying a 12-3 run to start the second half. That run brought Huskies alums Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart and Maya Moore, who were sitting 20 rows behind the UConn bench, to their feet.

"We had an incredible run, but we came up against a much better team tonight," Auriemma said.

Streak buster
The loss ended a 28-game NCAA Tournament winning streak for UConn. The last loss came to Notre Dame in 2012 in the Final Four. That was the last OT game in the national semifinals.

Quarterback connection
Prescott wasn't the only QB in attendance on Friday night. Donovan McNabb was also in Dallas, cheering on niece Kia Nurse, who stars for Connecticut. Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson was supporting his sister Anna, who is a freshman at Stanford in the first game.

Good Morning Mississippi
Good Morning America co-host Robin Roberts was sitting at center court. She was cheering on the Bulldogs, who hail from her home state. Roberts brought out a Bulldogs jersey on her morning show.

Drexel's Chris Crawford soaks up tradition at U.S. Open

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Drexel's Chris Crawford soaks up tradition at U.S. Open

ERIN, Wis. — The U.S. Open is all about tradition. This week is the 117th playing of golf's national championship and this event more than most celebrates those golfers who play the game as amateurs. 

Soon-to-be Drexel graduate Chris Crawford has been soaking up all the traditions this week at Erin Hills. Playing in his second U.S. Open after qualifying through both local and sectional competition for the second straight year, an extremely difficult feat, the 23-year-old fifth-year senior enjoyed the amateur dinner put on by the tournament organizers with the USGA. Crawford and his fellow amateurs, a stout list including Texas' Scottie Scheffler, who shot 3-under Thursday to seize the early low amateur lead, were celebrated the entire evening — one of Crawford's early highlights in a long week here in Wisconsin. 

Crawford produced a 3-over par 75 Thursday during the first round to tie for 102nd out of a field of 156 players.

"I played OK (Thursday)," Crawford said. "I'm going to take more positives than negatives out of the round. I played really well for 14 holes and just had a few bad swings on the other four holes."

Indeed, Thursday morning started nervously for the former Drexel golf standout. On the opening par-5 first hole, he snap-hooked his drive into the weeds out of bounds to the left, resulting in a double bogey. Three holes later, he chipped one shot over the back of the fourth green and took another double-bogey, placing him 4-over through four holes. 

Although bogeys might keep many of us alive in our weekend matches, it doesn't cut it in a U.S. Open. Crawford responded well in the ensuing 14 holes, going 1-under in that stretch.

Crawford's coach Mike Dynda, who teaches him at LuLu Country Club in Glenside, Pennsylvania, said he makes a big point to prepare Crawford's mind for his big rounds.

"I texted him last night and said, 'When you got to sleep, imagine that you're on the 18th hole and you have a putt for 9-under,'" Dynda said. "It's important to go to sleep and dream like that."

On the other side, Dynda — who taught the golf team at Drexel from 2003-2015 — also told his pupil to stay away from expectations. When you're 23 and you're playing in your second consecutive U.S. Open, one might think it would be easy to get ahead of yourself. Not so with Crawford, according to Dynda.

"I've taught him to not have any expectations for the five years we've been together," Dynda said. 

Crawford had a superstar practice round on Monday, playing with Jordan Spieth, Jim Furyk and Wisconsin's own Steve Stricker.

"It was a lot of fun playing with those guys and just watching them strategize about learning a brand new U.S. Open course," Crawford said. "I think that's the biggest thing I was impressed with, was the way they talked about strategy on this golf course.

"They were all very nice with me and were very specific to ask about me and they wanted to learn a little bit about my life, so I appreciated that."

For Dynda, talking with Furyk brought back a fond memory. Furyk's father, Mike, actually sold Dynda his first set of golf clubs, Tommy Armor 845s, back in Philadelphia years ago. 

With one round in the books and the forecast calling for rain this weekend, Crawford was looking forward to having the proper mentality as he headed into Friday's second round.

"I want to go out there and just not get ahead of myself," Crawford said. "I'm going to think positively and appreciate that I'm playing in the national open."

Crawford teed off at 2:31 p.m. local time off of the 10th hole.

"This week is so cool because I never do something like this," Crawford said. "Playing in front of such large crowds is a treat and I just love the interaction with the fans before and after the rounds as well."

Last year at Oakmont, dozens of friends and family made the drive down the turnpike to see him play in his first U.S. Open. This year, Crawford estimates that he has around 15 friends and family out in the galleries cheering him on. Though coach Dynda caddied last year, those duties have gone to current Drexel golf coach Ben Feld.

It's a party this week of Drexel golf proportions.

Atlantic 10 reveals 2017-18 schedule pairings

Atlantic 10 reveals 2017-18 schedule pairings

Philadelphia basketball fans will be getting a double dip of one of the Atlantic 10 conference's best rivalries once again next season.

With the league's 18-game regular season format in place for a fourth straight year, it was revealed Wednesday afternoon that Saint Joseph's and La Salle will battle twice — once in North Philly at Tom Gola Arena and a second time at the Hawks' home just off City Line Avenue. Each team in the 14-member conference will play eight teams once and five teams twice.

The full pairings for the Explorers and Saint Joe's are listed here:

La Salle
Home: Dayton, George Mason, St. Bonaventure, VCU, Fordham, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Saint Joseph’s, Saint Louis
Away: Davidson, Duquesne, George Washington, Richmond, Fordham, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Saint Joseph’s, Saint Louis

Saint Joseph’s
Home: Dayton, Duquesne, Saint Louis, VCU, Fordham, George Mason, La Salle, Massachusetts, St. Bonaventure
Away: Davidson, George Washington, Rhode Island, Richmond, Fordham, George Mason, La Salle, Massachusetts, St. Bonaventure

It was also rumored earlier in the day that the Hawks have added a Big Five matchup at Temple for Dec. 9.