Last week Texas A&M coach head coach Gary Blair proclaimed: "We're going to win a national championship."
Tuesday night his underdog Aggies delivered.
Texas A&M used a relentless team defense and the offensive power of senior center Danielle Adams to claim NCAA women's basketball national championship on Tuesday night in Indianapolis.
Adams scored 22 of her 30 points in a dominating second half and answered the Fighting Irish basket for basket Tuesday night to help the Aggies beat Notre Dame in a 76-70 thriller and bring the women's title home to College Station.
"I had a little voice in my head, 'Don't let this team down,' " said Adams, who became the school's first All-American a week ago and added outstanding player of the tournament to her honors."Every time we'd get down we were telling each other we're not going to lose this game. We worked hard all season to prepare for this point. I had to do this for my teammates. They've been doing everything for me. I decided to take them on my back and just let them ride on my back."
Tyra White added 18 points for A&M, including a huge 3-pointer as the shot clock buzzer sounded to put the Aggies up 73-68 with 1:07 left."That was the knife in my heart. That was the game," Irish coach Muffet McGraw said, bowing her head when the question was asked. "I thought that was just an amazing play on White's part, and that play was the game."
It was a back-and-forth first half and the Aggies trailed 48-43 early in the second half.
Adams stepped up and took over, scoring 10 of the next 13 points for the Aggies to give them a 56-53 lead midway through the second half.
Texas A&M extended the advantage to 64-57 behind guards Sydney Carter and Sydney Colson.
Notre Dame battled back behind Skylar Diggins.Diggins and Devereaux Peters. The Irish scored nine of the next 11 points to tie the game at 66 on Diggins' jumper with 3:56 left.
Adams made back-to-back lay-ups on Texas A&M's next two possessions to give the Aggies a 70-66 lead.
Peters' putback cut it to 70-68, but White hit her huge three-point shot to give the Aggies a commanding 5-point lead, 73-70.
Diggins had two free throws with 40 seconds left to pull back to within three, 73-70, but after a Notre Dame timeout Diggins turned the ball over in front of the bench.
White hit two free throws to seal the win.
Diggins finished with 23 points and Peters added 21 and 11 rebounds for Notre Dame (31-8).
Texas A&M (33-5) showed massive heart and soul throughout the NCAA tourney to become national champs.
The Aggies won the Dallas regional by beating conference rival and No. 1 seed Baylor, after having lost the Lady Bears three times during the season.
Sunday the Aggies upset another No. 1 seed, Stanford.
In the national championship game Tuesday night, the Aggies had to overcome a home court advantage for Notre Dame, with the game played just a few hours' drive from the Notre Dame campus in South Bend. Two-thirds of the 17,473 people in the arena wearing green and gold.
Adams, who struggled badly against Baylor, was up to the task and then some, scoring the second-most points ever in a championship game (Texas Tech's Sheryl Swoopes had 47 against Ohio State in 1993).
A&M had earned its first NCAA tournament bid in 1994, reached the regional semifinals. But the Aggie program regressed until Gary Blair arrived in 2003.
At 65, Blair became the oldest coach to win the women's championship
The man with the sharp tongue, quick wit and deep Southern drawl found himself at home recruiting the best players in his native Texas, and teaming up with others in the athletic department to sell the school. Winning this national title will certainly help.
This may be the first national championship for the Aggies, but it may not be the last.