DALLAS, TX (WIS) - The University of South Carolina Gamecocks are the 2017 NCAA women's basketball national champions!
A'ja Wilson and Allisha Gray both had double-doubles and the Gamecocks beat the Bulldogs 67-55 to win the NCAA women's championship in an all-Southeastern Conference matchup of first-time finalists Sunday night.
Head Coach Dawn Staley made the Final Four three times as a player at Virginia but never won. She also led the Gamecocks to the national semifinals two years ago before losing to Notre Dame.
Once the final buzzer sounded, Staley grabbed the trophy and paraded it around the court high over her head.
The victory in front of a sellout crowd came one day after the Gamecocks men's basketball team lost in the Final Four in Phoenix.
In the first half, the Gamecocks overcame an early surge that delighted a pro-Bulldogs crowd, leading by as many as 13 points in the second quarter before settling for a 36-26 halftime lead. The Bulldogs trailed by double digits at halftime for the first time in the NCAA Tournament.\
The Bulldogs got as close as four points after trailing by as many as 14 in the third quarter, but Kaela Davis hit a jumper just before the buzzer to push South Carolina's lead to 52-44 going into the fourth quarter.
Mississippi State pulled to within four points in the fourth, but South Carolina pulled away with about three minutes to go.
It was the first title for the SEC since the second of two straight by Tennessee in 2008.
Wilson had 23 points and 10 rebounds, and Gray added 18 points and 10 boards.
Not too long too long after the final buzzer sounded, the Gamecock flag was flying high atop the State House in downtown Columbia.
The university will hold a party for the Gamecocks at 4 p.m. on Monday at Colonial Life Area.
Columbia mayor Steve Benjamin said there would be a national championship parade.