In the final game of the year for women's college basketball the South Carolina Gamecocks and Mississippi State Bulldogs will faceoff for the national championship.
This will be an all-SEC final and the third meeting between the teams this season. You can X and O the game to death but it'll come down to who is going to dive on the floor for a loose ball, who is going to force a tie up and force a jump to get an extra possession, who is going to make THE steal or THE block.
South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley believes the keys to winning the first national title for the Palmetto State in women's college basketball will be something that doesn't necessarily appear in the box score.
"Who wants it more," Staley said before the team's practice on Saturday. "Who is going to get that loose ball, who is going to make those plays in the moment? It took us making plays in the fourth quarter to win both of the games we won against them early in the season. It's probably going to take that a little bit more to win a national championship."
Allisha Gray, who scored a game high 18 points and grabbed 8 rebounds in USC's win over Stanford to get to the title echoes her coach's view.
“You always hear ‘it’s hard to beat a team three times.’ We just have to approach them like we’ve never played them before and not overlook them because obviously, they’re a great team. We have to come out and play and compete,” Gray said.
After bringing down 19 rebounds against Stanford junior forward A'ja Wilson may need to have a repeat performance against the Bulldogs. She feels third meeting will be harder because of the familiarity between the teams.
“It makes it ten times harder because they know you just as much as we know them. We have seen them so many times that they probably know us better then we know ourselves," Wilson said. "It is going to be tougher because you do not change up anything around this time of the month, but at the same time something is going to have to change because they know you that well. It is going to be a very competitive game. "
The will, want and desire of the Gamecocks will also need to be channeled into areas that you will see like rebounding and scoring.
South Carolina won the first meeting 64-61 at home in a game that came down to the last seconds. When they met the second time the Gamecocks won the SEC title over the Bulldogs 59-49. Sunday's title game looks to be another low scoring defensive purists special.
But Kaela Davis thinks this will be a totally different game because of the stage and that USC will be looking at Mississippi State with fresh eyes.
"The slate is clean at this point. For us, because it is the championship game, we are going to approach this game as if it is the first time we’ve seen them. Mississippi State is is coming into their own. It’s the same as us in that everyone is finding their role. Both teams are just finding ways to win," Davis said.
South Carolina has been finding ways to win all year and now that they have one more game to find and another win and to hoist the championship trophy for the first time in program history.
The women's college basketball final tips off at 6 pm ET, 5 pm CT at American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX.