COLUMBUS, Ohio -- It lacked the dramatic finish of Mississippi State's overtime shocker over UConn a year ago on the same stage, but the Bulldogs are headed back to the national championship game after beating Louisville 73-63 in overtime Friday.
The game featured 15 lead changes, another big-time shot and a Final Four-record 25 rebounds from 6-foot-7 center Teaira McCowan before Mississippi State clinched a second straight appearance in the title game.
The Cardinals had a three-point lead with five seconds left in regulation when Mississippi State's Roshunda Johnson came off a McCowan screen and hit the biggest 3-pointer of her life. After two misses by Louisville at the other end, the game headed to overtime.
The Bulldogs dominated the extra five minutes, with senior Victoria Vivians starting things with a 3-pointer and McCowan grabbing seven of rebounds. Junior guard Jordan Danberry, an unsung hero for Mississippi State, came off the bench to score 10 points (she had nine in the NCAA tournament coming into Friday) and help hold Louisville star and ACC player of the year Asia Durr to 6-of-17 shooting, including an 0-for-2 effort in overtime. Vivians led all scorers with 25 points before fouling out with 1:18 left in OT.
Player of the game: McCowan and Vivians split Most Outstanding Player honors at the Kansas City Regional and were clutch again. Mississippi State wouldn't have won without both of them. McCowan also had 21 points to go along with her dominance on the boards, the second time in the NCAA tournament she has had at least 20 points and 20 rebounds in a game. At times, the Bulldogs' best offense was letting McCowan convert offensive rebounds into putbacks. She did that four times in the first half, helping Mississippi State to a 31-30 lead.
But Vivians was the best offensive player on the floor. Foul trouble was the only thing slowing her down. She shot 11-for-21 from the field and scored Mississippi State's first five points in overtime. Her return to the game with 6:59 left in the fourth quarter with four fouls sparked an 8-0 run that erased Louisville's biggest lead, 53-46.
How it was won: Johnson's shot won't be remembered the same way Morgan William's was last year in beating UConn, but it was enormous. After inexplicably letting Myisha Hines-Allen get loose for a layup and a 59-56 Cardinals' lead, Mississippi State got the ball back with 11 seconds left at midcourt after advancing it with a timeout. Louisville coach Jeff Walz elected not to foul with the three-point lead and Johnson made him pay.
With Blair Schaefer as a decoy, Johnson found herself open on the left wing and drained the long jumper.
The Cardinals quickly raced the ball up the floor with Hines-Allen driving all the way to the basket. With McCowan defending, the Louisville senior missed the contested layup. Jazmine Jones grabbed the rebound and shot an uncontested putback that just rolled off the rim as the buzzer sounded. Louisville's best chance to win disappeared with that miss.
Vivians opened the scoring with a 3-pointer from the right wing and the Bulldogs never trailed again, outscoring Louisville 14-4 in overtime.
Stat of the game: Two of the most efficient offenses in the country shot the ball poorly most of the night. Louisville hit just 36.6 percent of its shots. Mississippi State finished at 40.3 percent. In particular, the Cardinals' two stars -- Durr and Hines-Allen -- struggled. Durr was 6-of-17 and Hines-Allen, after sitting out the entire second quarter because of foul trouble and not scoring in the first half, finished 5-of-18. Meanwhile, Vivians and McCowan combined to shoot 19-of-33.
In a game that was ultra-physical from the opening tip, Mississippi State was also the more aggressive team. That, combined with McCowan's presence, helped the Bulldogs get to the line 25 times. They made 19. McCowan was 7-of-9. Louisville was only 5-of-7 from the free throw line.
What's next: Mississippi State survives to play the winner of the Notre Dame-UConn matchup on Sunday (ESPN, 6 p.m. ET). The Bulldogs, just like last year, will be entering the championship game after an exhausting semifinal win. McCowan will need the most extra rest. She played all 45 minutes.