No. 2 seed Texas A&M defeated No. 2 seed Notre Dame 76-70 in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Tuesday. It was a rough road for the Aggies to win the first NCAA Championship in school history, but they proved that defense wins championships by picking up the defensive pressure in the tournament.
A&M senior forward Danielle Adams had a performance worthy of her All-America selection with 30 points, nine rebounds and taking Most Outstanding Player honors for the championship game. Adams posted up smaller defenders for most of the game, as she came into the game shooting only 5-27 from behind the arc. Coach Blair’s strategy kept Adams from fouling out, and allowed her to conserve energy for an offensive explosion of 22 points in the second half. Adams took on the persona of a champion in the second half, scoring at will and bringing a tough presence to the Aggie defense.
The Aggie defense came into the championship game only allowing 48.2 points per game, and although the Irish scored 70 points, the Aggies brought the same physicality seen in each previous tournament game. Notre Dame came into the matchup boasting a higher percentage from deep (47 percent on the tournament) but the pesky perimeter defenders of A&M held them to a mere 20 percent from behind the arc. Senior guard Sydney Colson and junior guard Sydney Carter challenged each shot of the Irish guards and other defenders pressured every pass to force 16 turnovers and hold the Irish to 46.2 percent shooting from the field.
A&M junior guard Tyra White contributed two steals to the success of the Aggie defense, but also scored 18 points to complete her streak of scoring double figures in every game of the tournament. White has been the most consistent and clutch scorer for the Aggies in this tournament, averaging 13.8 points per game and scoring the winning basket against Stanford in the Final Four matchup. White was crucial for the Aggies in this tournament as a scorer, but showed potential of becoming a lockdown defender.
Junior lockdown defender Sydney Carter fouled out of the game but was vital in defending Notre Dame’s best scorer. Carter struggled on the offensive end (5 points, 2-6 FG) because of her focus on stopping the recent breakout play of Diggins. Carter stayed in her pocket throughout the game, while still grabbing five rebounds and dishing four assists.
Another player key to the success of the Aggie defense was senior leader Sydney Colson. Colson platooned with Carter to defend the top scorers for Notre Dame (Diggins and Natalie Novosel) while still directing the offense. She pushed the ball when Notre Dame was out of position, and slowed the pace to get numbers. Although she had 10 points, five assists and three steals, her leadership throughout the game should not be overlooked.
ESPN analysts managed to overlook the Aggies yet again, with only Mechelle Voepel owning up to her previous mistakes and picking the Ags as the national champions. The Aggies carried the title of underdog into the championship with a sense of pride after being picked to lose in the Elite 8 against Baylor and again in the Final Four against Stanford.
In a game that some questioned the benefit of only the second women’s title game without a No. 1 seed, comparing the powerhouse-less game to Tiger Woods and the PGA, Texas A&M and Notre Dame proved their worth as programs reaching the championship without the shadow of NCAA investigation. While college football programs are under investigation for athletes receiving improper benefits, some wonder if women’s basketball needs the same controversy. Instead, the national title game proved winning without penalty is the best way to gain a positive perception.
The Aggies allowed Notre Dame’s super sophomore Skylar Diggins to score 23 points but forced her to turn the ball over six times. The Aggie defense controlled the pace of the Irish offense throughout the game as though they were directing a movie starring Diggins. As the credits scrolled across the screen in this movie, Coach Blair could be seen doing his rendition of the “Dougie.”
Danielle Adams, Texas A&M, Senior, Forward
30 points, 9 rebounds, 0 assists, 1 steal, 1 block
Skylar Diggins, Notre Dame, Sophomore, Guard
23 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals, 6 turnovers