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Bulldogs look to end UConn’s run in Final Four

  • Mississippi State head coach Vic Schaefer works with his team during a practice session for the women's NCAA Final Four college basketball tournament, Thursday, March 30, 2017, in Dallas. Mississippi State will play Connecticut on Friday. (AP Photo/LM Otero) LM Otero

  • Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma watches over his team a practice session for the women's NCAA Final Four college basketball tournament, Thursday, March 30, 2017, in Dallas. UConn will play Mississippi State on Friday. (AP Photo/LM Otero) LM Otero

  • Mississippi State head coach Vic Schaefer, center, works with his team during a practice session for the women's NCAA Final Four college basketball tournament, Thursday, March 30, 2017, in Dallas. Mississippi State will play Connecticut on Friday. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) Eric Gay

  • Connecticut forward Katie Lou Samuelson shoots during a practice session for the women's NCAA Final Four college basketball tournament, Thursday, March 30, 2017, in Dallas. Connecticut will play Mississippi State on Friday. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) Eric Gay

  • Mississippi State forward Breanna Richardson (3) shoots during a practice session for the women's NCAA Final Four college basketball tournament, Thursday, March 30, 2017, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Tony Gutierrez

  • Connecticut players workout during a practice session for the women's NCAA Final Four college basketball tournament, Thursday, March 30, 2017, in Dallas. UConn will play Mississippi State on Friday. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) Eric Gay

  • Mississippi State center Teaira McCowan (15) and forward Breanna Richardson (3) laugh during a practice session for the women's NCAA Final Four college basketball tournament, Thursday, March 30, 2017, in Dallas. Mississippi State will play Connecticut on Friday. (AP Photo/LM Otero) LM Otero

  • Connecticut guard Gabby Williams, left, and forward Katie Lou Samuelson, right, take part in a practice session for the women's NCAA Final Four college basketball tournament, Thursday, March 30, 2017, in Dallas. UConn will play Mississippi State on Friday. (AP Photo/LM Otero) LM Otero



Associated Press
Thursday, March 30, 2017

DALLAS — Vic Schaefer doesn’t want his players to forget last season’s humiliating 60-point loss to UConn in the NCAA Tournament.

The Mississippi State Bulldogs have had a constant reminder of that defeat all season long, with the number 60 written on the window of the team’s weight room.

“It’s annoying, honestly. It’s annoying to see that 60,” point guard Morgan William said. “Like, dang, we got beat by 60. It’s a pride thing, too. Getting beat by 60, that’s personal.”

The Bulldogs will get a chance at redemption when they play UConn in the national semifinals tonight. It’s Mississippi State’s first appearance in the Final Four, while the Huskies are here for the 10th consecutive year.

Schaefer recalled how he was invited to speak at the Final Four last season about defense, days after his team lost 98-38, and laughed at the notion.

While UConn’s current team is vastly different from that squad — Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck and Moriah Jefferson left for the WNBA — Schaefer knows that the Huskies’ system hasn’t changed.

“It was a humbling, embarrassing experience for all of us,” he said. “I think that’s the big thing you learn, is the speed of the game. Let me tell you, this team is no different. I know the names have changed with some of them. The team is no different. Great chemistry. Great defensive team. Great offensive chemistry. Great skill sets. They are fast. ... Speedy.”

UConn coach Geno Auriemma doesn’t put much stock into last season’s game since his team is so different.

“There’s nobody on this team right now that had anything other than ‘I was at that game’ to do with that score,” he said of the win. “If you watch that game, Stewie (Breanna Stewart) looked like an NBA player playing against high school kids. Moriah was so much better than anybody on the floor. And Tuck just dominated long stretches of the game. So the score was like 30-4 at the end of the first quarter. I think Lou (Katie Lou Samuelson) had one bucket. I don’t think Kia (Nurse) had any. The other guys didn’t even play.”

Here are a few other tidbits for tonight’s game:

TIP TIME: Auriemma wasn’t thrilled with the late start time.

“Well, I’ve said this in the past: TV and what’s going on in the actual arena don’t go together. So what’s best for television is a 10 o’clock start on the East Coast, or a 9:30 start on the East Coast,” Auriemma said. “It’s not best for my players to sit around till 9:30 tomorrow night, but it’s best for TV because they’re paying the bills. So they get to show the game whenever they feel like it.”

Auriemma AP Coach of Year

UConn's Geno Auriemma is The Associated Press' women's college basketball Coach of the Year for the ninth time.

Auriemma has guided his team to an undefeated season so far and the Huskies have won 111 consecutive games overall.

This might be Auriemma's best coaching job as he lost three All-Americans to graduation from last year's team that won a fourth consecutive national championship.

He was presented the award Thursday after receiving 26 of the votes from a 33-member national media panel. The balloting was done before the NCAA Tournament.

Oregon State's Scott Rueck was second with three votes while Drake's Jennie Baranczyk received two. Duke's Joanne P. McCallie and Mississippi State's Vic Schaefer each received one vote.