– Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer walked away from the team’s locker room with one arm around the shoulder of his weeping daughter Blair and the other arm draped over guard Morgan William. Both players were inconsolable after losing the national championship to Notre Dame on a desperation three-pointer with 0.1 seconds left.

The Bulldogs got oh so close again but couldn’t finish it off. On their second straight trip to the national title game, they built a big lead Sunday night but allowed the Irish to come roaring back in the second half. Arike Ogunbowale, who beat UConn with a last-second shot in overtime on Friday night, provided the heroics again for Notre Dame in the 61-58 victory.

Blair Schaefer, William and fellow seniors Roshunda Johnson and Victoria Vivians all cried softly as they tried to answer questions from reporters after the game. They’ll leave Starkville without a national championship after winning dramatic semifinal games in both seasons. Last year they ended UConn’s 111-game winning streak in the semi before falling to South Carolina in the title game.

Vic Schaefer’s voice broke with emotion when he talked about his team, which finished 37-2.

“This is the toughest, most resilient team I’ve ever seen,” he said. “Their competitive fire and competitive spirit is second to none.”

Mississippi State led by five on a Johnson three-pointer with just under two minutes left. Then Marina Mabrey hit a three-pointer for Notre Dame, and Jackie Young hit a jumper to tie the score at 58 with 45 seconds left. McCowan missed an easy layup, and the teams traded turnovers as the clock ticked down, setting up another big moment for Ogunbowale.

“We didn’t get two stops when we needed to get stops,” Blair Schaefer said. “They obviously executed on offense and got two big buckets and the game was tied.”

Her father took every bit of the blame.

“You’re up five with 1:40 [left], it’s my job to get them home, and I didn’t get them home,” he said. “I’ll wear that maybe for the rest of my career.”

His daughter, though, wouldn’t hear it.

“He’s always been accountable and always takes everything on his shoulders, so I think one time we have to accept that we didn’t make that one more,” she said. “I’m just proud of him for getting us back here and being able to experience this.”