“My dad has always said big time players step up and make big time plays,” said William, a freshman guard. “I knew I couldn’t drive because I had been driving all night and not getting fouled. So I had to create some space and get a shot off. Fortunately, I made it.
“Their crowd really got me excited because this was a big win.”
MSU improved to 20-2 overall and 5-2 in league play, while Ole Miss fell to 14-6 and 4-3. The Bulldogs became the first NCAA Division I men’s or women’s program to reach 20 wins.
“If you work at either place, people are really interested in the outcome,” MSU head coach Vic Schaefer said. “I am proud of the toughness and the resilience of these kids. When the game started, I told the team we were a 19-2 team and that we needed to go out and play like a 19-2 team, ranked 18th in the nation.
“To have 20 wins by January 22 is special. We have some good players. To be a Mississippi State Bulldog and to win in Oxford, Mississippi, is special.”
Breanna Richardson matched her SEC high with 16 points. Martha Alwal and William posted their best league efforts with 14 points apiece, while Victoria Vivians completed the quarter of double-figure scorers with 10 points.
MSU quickly built a 4-0 lead before falling down after an 8-2 run. Things remained nip-and-tuck with Alwal giving the Maroon and White a 12-8 lead.
Ole Miss responded with an 11-0 run to take its largest lead of the game at 22-14 with 8:55 left in the first half.
Back-to-back baskets by Breanna Richardson and Alwal brought the Bulldogs within 26-22 with 6:11 left in the half.
Ole Miss still maintained its momentum from the late run to take a 34-30 lead at halftime.
“Coach told us the first five minutes (of the second half) were going to be really huge,” Richardson said. “We knew we could either punch them in the mouth or they could punch us first. I really like how we came in the second half and got things started.
“As for me personally, I tried to give my team some juice because we needed it.”
MSU grabbed its first lead of the second half at 40-37 after back-to-back 3-point baskets from Richardson and Vivians.
The Bulldogs continued their strong play in the second half and extended the lead to eight points at 55-47 with 8:35 left after a 3-pointer by Jerica James.
Ole Miss closed within two points at 55-53 and brought the crowd back into the activity with a one-point deficit at 60-59 with 1:49 left. The teams were then tied at 60 and 62 before William hit the game-winner.
“It felt really great to be carried over the floor by teammates,” William said. “But we won this together.”
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 21 of 50 shots from the field (42.0 percent), 4 of 18 shots from 3-point range (22.2 percent) and 18 of 24 shots from the foul line (75.0 percent). The Rebels hit 23 of 64 shots from the field (35.9 percent), 3 of 13 shots from 3-point range (23.1 percent) and 13 of 18 shots from the foul line (72.2 percent).
Ole Miss held a 43-31 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had eight assists and 16 turnovers, while the Rebels had 13 assists and 15 turnovers.
“In the second half, we held them to 26 percent shooting from the field and that was the difference in the game,” Schaefer said. “I have a lot of confidence in this team because we have some really good players. Tonight, those players made enough plays to win a critical game on the road in the toughest conference in the nation.”
Ole Miss received 12 points from A’Queen Hayes and 10 points from Gracie Frizzell. Leading scorer Tia Faleru battled through foul trouble by scoring eight points and pulling down 11 rebounds before fouling out with 1:54 left in regulation.
MSU remains on the road for a Monday night contest at Auburn. The Bulldogs and Tigers meet at 8 p.m. in a national telecast on the SEC Network from Auburn Arena.