STARKVILLE – Mississippi State appeared to be on its way to the Final Four of the Women’s National Invitational.
Martha Alwal banked in a layup with under five seconds remaining to give the Bulldogs a 58-57 lead over South Florida on Sunday. Shortly thereafter, the final horn sounded to the thunderous approval of the 3,006 in attendance.
But after official review, the Bulls had called a timeout and 4.2 seconds was put back on the clock. That was all the time Courtney Williams needed to drive the length of the floor and bury a contested 3-pointer from the right wing at the buzzer for a 60-58 victory.
“I was pretty confident,” said Williams, who finished with 13 points. “I knew if I didn’t score we were going to lose.”
The Bulldogs’ first non-league loss of the year at home ended their season.
MSU finished 22-14.
“I’m really proud of this team and I hate it that we lost that,” said MSU coach Vic Schaefer. “I hate it more for them and our fans than I do anything. It was a great crowd and a tremendous atmosphere again.”
State overcame a nine-point deficit in the final six minutes of the first half to tie the game at 22 heading into the locker room. The Bulldogs held a four-point lead at the 8:52 mark of the second half until USF went on a 12-0 run.
But Kendra Grant once again came up big to put the Bulldogs back in a position to win. Grant scored 16 of her 22 points in the second half and was the game’s leading scorer despite playing only 18 minutes.
“She put us on her back again,” Schaefer said. “She carried us right there to the brink of victory.”
MSU’s Breanna Richardson added 14 points and 14 rebounds, while Alwal set the school single-season rebounding record of 317 boards with eight rebounds.
Shaleth Stringfield paced South Florida (23-12) with 20 points off the bench.