Photo: Yangxing Ding / The Daily Gamecock

Commencement issue: A new Dawn: Gamecocks win first national championship against Bulldogs

For the first time ever, on April 2, 2017, the South Carolina Gamecocks became the national champions in women’s basketball.

Behind the coaching of Dawn Staley and the double-digit scoring of A’ja Wilson, Allisha Gray and Kaela Davis, the Gamecocks defeated Mississippi State 67-55 in the national championship game in Dallas Sunday.

"I really can't even put into words the feeling of how much it meant to win this game for Coach," Wilson said. "It really means something special to kind of bring this back home, especially for such a great person like Coach Staley."

Wilson and Gray reached double figures in the first half with 11 points each, while the guard Bianca Cuevas-Moore held Morgan William, who hit the game-winning jumper against UConn in the Final Four, to five points.

The Gamecocks did not attempt a single 3-pointer in the first half, but shot 46.2 percent from the field and 80 percent from the line. They out-rebounded the Bulldogs by eight, continuously crashing the glass in order to create more scoring opportunities.

But the Bulldogs didn't disappear that easily.

Midway through the third quarter, MSU put together a 9-0 run on perfect (5-of-5) field goal shooting, cutting the Gamecocks' once 14-point lead to five. Yet with 3:16 to go, Wilson took over and delivered the final dagger. The All-American scored three-straight baskets, leading the Gamecocks to a 14-point lead. Her teammates watched, stood up and punched their fists in realization of the program’s first ever national championship.

Wilson, who was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four, led with 23 points, while Gray finished with 18 and Davis finished with 10.

"That's our season, attacking in paint, paint dominance. We kept doing that, and got the win," Wilson said.

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