Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Rick Cleveland: Itty Bitty played bigly.

My job today is to try to put in historical perspective what Mississippi State's Morgan William – the one they call Itty Bitty – accomplished Sunday night at Oklahoma City.

William, listed at 5 feet, 5 inches tall, scored 41 points, dished out seven assists and did not commit a turnover in Mississippi State's Final Four berth-clinching, 94-85 victory over Baylor.

I can't say it was the greatest athletic feat, men or women, in Mississippi history.

But I can't say it wasn't either.

It was like hitting four home runs and making the winning catch in an NCAA Baseball Regional final. It was like throwing for 600 yards and five touchdowns in the Sugar Bowl. It was like shooting 59 in a big golf tournament. It was like running a 9.5 100 meters or bowling 300.

Heck, what William did is hard to put in 2017 perspective. She had scored only 12 points in three previous NCAA Tournament games. She was averaging about 10 points per game on the season. Her nightly job for the Mississippi State Bulldogs is that of facilitator, to get the ball into the hands of teammates in a place where they can shoot it and make baskets.

She did a lot of that Sunday, but she did a lot more.

As Baylor coach Kim Mulkey put it, “Their one kid kicked our rear.”

The 41 points, the seven assists, the zero turnovers are all remarkable numbers, especially the turnovers when you consider the lightning pace of Sunday night's game. But William was even better than those numbers, because Kristi Wallace, Baylor's Australian point guard, fouled out trying to keep up with her. Wallace had nine points, four assists and seven turnovers.

Wallace is listed at 5 feet, 11 inches, a head taller than William, and she has been a star on Australian national teams.

So William really did kick Baylor's rear. In a game that went to overtime and was eventually decided by nine points, William out-scored her counterpart by 32 points and committed fewer seven turnovers.

And this all brings to mind one of my favorite quotes from my all-time favorite American philosopher, Samuel Clemens, otherwise known as Mark Twain. Said Twain, “It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog.”

William was – and is – absolutely fearless. She'd drain a long 3 on one possession, then drive into the paint on the next. And when she'd drive in there where people more than a foot taller than she were waiting, you'd think, “Oh no!”

And then, when challenged by 6-7 All American Kalani Brown, William would somehow reach around Brown and deftly toss a perfect pass to Teaira McCowan for an easy bucket.

Ah, McCowan. To do achieve this Mississippi State team has achieved, you must have different people come through on different nights. To get to Baylor, Mississippi State had to first deal with Washington, led by the nation's best female player, Kelsey Plum. McCowan scored 26 of her team-high 26 points in the fourth quarter to help State advance. McCowan also had 12 rebounds and six blocked shots.

McCowan is 6 feet, 7 inches tall. When she and Itty Bitty stand side by side on the court, it looks like something out of a comic strip. McCowan is Mutt. William is Jeff. William comes up to McCowan's waist. Believe this: Washington and Baylor are not laughing.

So, it's on to Dallas where State goes after a national championship.

Yes, it is unlikely. But no more unlikely than the smallest player on the court scoring 41 points on the biggest stage of her life.

Sunday night at Oklahoma City, Morgan William wrote her own chapter of Mississippi sports history. Years and years from now, people will remember.

Rick Cleveland is a Jackson-based syndicated columnist. His email address is


bill said...

In the annals of college basketball only Bill Walton in the championship game in 1973 and Christian Laettner in the semi-final in 1992 have played perfect or near perfect games. Add Morgan William to that list.

Anonymous said...

Bantha fodder for UConn.

Anonymous said...

She couldn't talk after the game as she was so emotional. Her Dad died three years before to the day and she was showing out for him. It is reminiscent of Brett Favre's performance after his Dad died.

Anonymous said...

Hey 8:37 - good call. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Itty Bitty didn't play much at all tonite.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't her night, but she was huge vs UConn.

Killing a 111 winning streak, playing in a NCAA Championship game, SWEEP in baseball - all in all on seriously awesome weekend to be a Bulldog. I'll take it!

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Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

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In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

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This is definitely a Beaver production.

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Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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