<
>

After two epic performances, what's in store in Morgan William's final game of the season?

play
The thrilling end to UConn's winning streak (1:02)

From the critical turnover, to Morgan William knocking in the buzzer-beater to send Mississippi State past UConn in overtime, check out the reaction to the Huskies' 111-game winning streak coming to an end. (1:02)

DALLAS -- Morgan William's game-winning shot against UConn had thousands of people shouting on Friday night. But the Mississippi State point guard generally gets more accomplished with a whisper than by raising her voice.

Admittedly, the Bulldogs' coaches still encourage her to be more vocal and forceful in running the team. But the junior with the soft voice still has a commanding presence -- one that's helped Mississippi State pull off two huge upsets and advance to Sunday's national championship game against SEC rival South Carolina (ESPN/WatchESPN, 6 p.m. ET).

"Every point guard is different," said Mississippi State assistant coach Dionnah Jackson-Durrett, who played that position in college at Oklahoma. "Morgan has her own way. We want her to embrace being that tough, vocal, firm leader, but we have to embrace how she does it. Because it works for her.

"She'll go over to her teammates, whisper in their ear. And Morgan takes a lot from the coaching staff. We all get on her. But she processes it, and she wants to get it right. She doesn't want to disappoint anyone."

"If she's in a groove and she's playing as she's played the last [several] games, it's going to be a long night for us."

South Carolina coach Dawn Staley on Morgan William

Jackson-Durrett played for the Sooners from 2001 to '05, including an NCAA final appearance her freshman season against UConn in 2002. She is in her second season as an assistant to Vic Schaefer at Mississippi State and says she's seen a noticeable improvement this season in William.

"She had to learn how to control the pace of the game," Jackson-Durrett said. "Sometimes, it just clicks -- all that we've been telling her throughout the year. She really found that against Baylor, and she was very composed [against UConn]. She's had really good games in the past, but she's put it all together now."

William had one of the best games in women's NCAA tournament history in the Bulldogs' overtime victory against Baylor in the Oklahoma City regional final, finishing with 41 points, seven assists and no turnovers.

Then in the national semifinals here at American Airlines Center on Friday, she had 13 points and six assists against the No. 1 overall seed Huskies. The game ended with William's jump shot over an outstretched Gabby Williams that will live always in Bulldog lore. It gave Mississippi State its second consecutive overtime victory, this one a 66-64 win over the program that's won 11 national championships.

However, William was very businesslike on Saturday when meeting with the media. Yes, she watched the winning shot a few times on video and checked out some of the reaction to it on social media. But she suggested it wouldn't necessarily mean a great deal if the Bulldogs don't close the deal with another victory on Sunday to claim the national championship.

"I'd be heartbroken," she said. "We've fought extremely hard to get to where we are."

Whatever happens, William's back-to-back performances will be long remembered. But it says something about her mentality that she's got her eye firmly on what's still left to accomplish.

She reflected back to the Bulldogs' 82-65 loss to Tennessee in Starkville, Mississippi, on Feb. 26. They had a chance to possibly win or tie for the regular-season SEC championship but just didn't play well.

"I felt like we wanted that game so bad. We just went out there and didn't perform," William said. "There was so much at stake for us, and we blew the opportunity. Coach Schaefer made us watch that film from beginning to end. It was really hard to watch it, but it helped us as a team."

William has not played as well as she would have liked in the Bulldogs' two losses to South Carolina this season: 64-61 on Jan. 23, and 59-49 in the SEC tournament final on March 5. Now she has another chance against the Gamecocks.

"I have respect for them," William said. "Each possession, every rebound is tough."

But if there is anyone ready for one last battle this season, it's William.

"Morgan is going to make shots; she's going to make plays," South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. "If we can decrease the amount of times that those plays are easy plays, I think it works in our favor.

"But if she's in a groove, and she's playing as she's played the last [several] games, it's going to be a long night for us."