DALLAS — Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer last year was showing the movie ‘‘Miracle’’ to his players and hoping for one.
Now, the Bulldogs are living one.
A year after an embarrassing 60-point loss to mighty UConn in the Sweet 16, the Bulldogs are headed to their first national championship game. Morgan William’s overtime buzzer-beating jumper gave them a 66-64 victory over the four-time defending national champion Huskies in the national semifinals Friday night.
‘‘It was personal. ... We had to prove we’re a much better team than last year,’’ said Victoria Vivians, who led the Bulldogs with 19 points.
‘‘What an unbelievable gutsy performance that no one in the country, including all of y'all, probably thought could happen, and that’s OK,’’ Schaefer said. ‘‘But we knew it could happen.’’
Just like the 1980 US men’s Olympic hockey that upset the heavily favored Soviet Union team on way to the gold medal, Mississippi State (34-4) still has one more game to play after ending UConn’s 111-game winning streak.
The Bulldogs, with four seniors and four juniors, will play South Carolina in an all-SEC matchup for the national title Sunday night.
‘‘This year, I wasn’t showing ‘Miracle.’ We weren’t watching any movies, I wasn’t talking about the Philistines slaying giants, although it was in the back of my mind,’’ Schaefer said. ‘‘We beat the greatest team with the greatest streak in the history of sports.’’
Schaefer was part of a national championship while on coach Gary Blair’s staff at Texas A&M in 2011, then became Mississippi State’s head coach.
Now the Bulldogs are one win away from one of their own after perhaps the biggest upset in women’s basketball history.
‘‘We didn’t have to play them best-out-of-seven, didn't’ have to beat them best-out-five,’’ Schaefer said. ‘‘We just had to play them one time, beat them one time.’’
Schaefer described his team has having tremendous heart and some pride, which got stepped on by UConn last season.
William, who scored 41 points in Mississippi State’s regional final victory over top-seeded Baylor, had 13 points against the Huskies. She had a layup attempt blocked at the end of regulation.
‘‘Ain’t any shots bigger than then one she hit tonight,’’ Schaefer said.
‘‘Well, Coach called the timeout. He was like, ‘Morgan, you can win the game.’ That’s what he said,’’ William said. ‘‘When I made the shot, I was in shock. I'm still in shock.’’
So is UConn.
. . .
Allisha Gray scored 18 points, A'ja Wilson had a double-double, and South Carolina is going to its first national championship game after beating Stanford, 62-53,in the national semifinals.
Wilson had 13 points and 19 rebounds for the Gamecocks (32-4), who lost in the semifinal of their only other Final Four appearance two years ago. They went ahead to stay with 13 straight points in the third quarter.
Stanford (32-6) took a big hit when senior star guard Karlie Samuelson sprained her right ankle about 4½ minutes before halftime after the Cardinal had taken an 8-point lead with a 13-1 run.
South Carolina’s Dawn Staley, who played for Tara VanDerveer on the US women’s team that won the 1996 Olympic gold medal, won as a coach against the Stanford coach for the first time in six tries.
Staley also made three consecutive Final Four appearances as a player for Virginia from 1990-92. Two of those included semifinal losses to VanDerveer and the Cardinal on way to their only national titles (1990, 1992).
Samuelson was hurt when she was making a move toward the basket, and stepped on the foot of South Carolina guard Bianca Cuevas-Moore. Samuelson’s right foot then slid onto the floor before twisting awkwardly. She grabbed near her ankle with both hands after falling down.
Samuelson, who finished scoreless while playing 25 minutes and taking only two shots, returned to start the second half. But she was back on the bench after only 73 seconds, standing behind the bench briefly while stretching her ankle and grimacing in pain. She entered the game several more times after that, but clearly was far from being 100 percent.
The senior guard’s younger sister, Katie Lou, played for UConn in the second semifinal game Friday night in the home of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks. The four-time defending national champion Huskies played Mississippi State.
Erica McCall had 14 points and 14 rebounds for the Cardinal, but made only 7 of 19 shots. Alanna Smith had 14 points and 12 rebounds.
The Gamecocks went ahead, 35-33, when Wilson, with defenders surrounding her as they did much of the game, found Bianca Cuevas-Moore open for a 3-pointer that she hit from right in front her teammates on the bench.
Stanford missed three shots on its next possession, and South Carolina quickly extended the lead on freshman Tyasha Harris’s one-handed bullet pass to Doniyah Cline, who was open under the basket for a layup. That was the only assist for Harris, who finished with 10 points.