By Dalton Ray —
A put-back at the end of regulation would have propelled women’s basketball (36-3) into the national title game. The shot just rimmed out, leading to overtime. Louisville scored just four points in overtime, falling to Mississippi State (37-1) 73-63.
Coach Jeff Walz would have advanced to his third title game with the win. The program’s all-time winningest coach witnessed the chance at his first ring flash before his eyes.
“We had two great looks,” Walz said. “I thought Myisha (Hines-Allen) really took it hard to the rim. There’s not going to be a foul call on that … and I’m fine with that.”
Walz said this season was one of the most enjoyable he’s ever had, but not because of the on-court production.
“It’s one of the most enjoyable seasons I’ve had, and it’s not because of our record. It’s because of these young women. Not only are they great basketball players, but they’re great women,” Walz said.
Not having a chance to play for a title isn’t the biggest deal for Walz.
“The most disappointing thing to me right now is that we’re not going to get a chance to practice tomorrow,” Walz said.
Junior Asia Durr dropped 18 points in the win, playing all 45 minutes. Junior Jazmine Jones added 15 points and nine rebounds.
In her final collegiate game, senior Myisha Hines-Allen scored 11 points and grabbed four rebounds. She had a chance to win the game with a layup at the buzzer, but the tough defense from Mississippi State’s Teaira McCowen was too much.
Durr, holding back tears, explained how much Hines-Allen impacted her career.
“When I first got here, she did so much for me,” Durr said. “My first year here was so hard for me. She’s the one who brought me through took me under her wing.”
The teams started with sluggish shooting, combining for 2-of-13 to start the game. Mississippi State didn’t register their first points until the 5:15 mark in the opening quarter.
Despite shooting 3-for-15, Mississippi State closed the first quarter with a 13-11 lead. Louisville committed seven fouls, leading to seven Bulldog free throws.
Freshman Dana Evans, redshirt junior Arica Carter and Jones carried the Cardinals in the second quarter, combining for 17 points and seven rebounds. Durr and Hines-Allen failed to score in the quarter, the first quarter of the postseason in which both failed to score.
Hines-Allen played only six minutes in the opening half because of foul trouble. Durr was hounded by the Bulldogs, fielding only one shot in the second quarter.
Mississippi State snatched the halftime lead with a last-second layup. Louisville held MSU to 33.5 percent shooting, but trailed 31-30.
Offensive rebounding hurt Louisville early in the third quarter and Mississippi State pushed their lead to seven. Louisville stayed steady and closed the gap thanks to Jones and Durr.
After having her three answered by Mississippi State, Durr closed the quarter by saucing up a Mississippi State defender and drilling a step-back 3-pointer.
Hines-Allen opened the fourth quarter with a three, her sixth of the season. Durr’s stop-and-pop jumper with 6:59 left gave Louisville their biggest lead of the game, seven, and forced a MSU timeout.
The Bulldogs responded with an 8-0 run, regaining the lead at 54-53.
Hines-Allen knocked down a long-range jumper to cut the lead to one. Jones recorded the steal on the opposite end and Louisville took the lead with a Carter layup.
Failing to in-bound the ball on back-to-back attempts, the third time proved to be the charm. Hines-Allen evaded her defender and laid in the uncontested finger roll.
With five seconds to play, MSU’s Roshunda Johnson hit a three to tie the game at 59.
Hines-Allen took the inbound coast-to-coast, but just missed the contested layup. Jones’ put-back with less than a second left just rimmed out, forcing overtime.
Mississippi State started overtime with a three and Louisville missed their first four shots. The Bulldogs owned the final period, out-scoring Louisville 14-4.
You can follow Dalton Ray on Twitter @dray5477.
Photos by Karen Nguyen / The Louisville Cardinal