INDIANAPOLIS — Scoring at will, grabbing rebounds and making a key steal, Danielle Adams saved her best game for the biggest stage and gave Texas A&M its first national championship.
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 bring a title to the former all-male military academy with a 76-70 victory over Notre Dame.
"I knew they couldn't stop me inside, so that's what I did — I took it inside," said Adams, who became the school's first All-American a week ago.
No one was happier than Gary Blair, the outspoken Aggies coach who hadn't been in the Final Four since 1998 when he was with Arkansas. Blair bluntly said it was a good thing that top powers such as Connecticut, Tennessee and Stanford weren't in the title game.
"We don't give up," Blair said. "We might not play the prettiest game in the world, but it's good for women's basketball to see a Texas A&M and a Notre Dame in this game."
And then his Aggies (33-5) went out and proved him right.
Tyra White added 18 points for the Aggies, including a 3-pointer as the shot clock buzzer sounded to put them up 73-68 with 1:07 left. She and her teammates then staved off a final, frantic push by the Irish and star guard Skylar Diggins.
The Aggies are a national championship newcomer and bullied their way through the tournament to get to the top. They vanquished their conference rival on the way, beating top-seeded Baylor in the Dallas Region final after losing to the Bears three times during the season. After beating Baylor, the Aggies edged top-seeded Stanford on Sunday night.
Adams, who struggled badly against Baylor, was up to the task and then some against Notre Dame, scoring the second-most points ever in a championship game (Sheryl Swoopes had 47 in 1993).
"We did not find an answer for her," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "We had a plan. We just weren't able to stop her. … She's just a great player. She's got a big body, and we couldn't get around her."
Notre Dame eliminated two top seeds: Tennessee in the region final and UConn in Sunday's national semifinals, the first time one team has taken down those two titans in the same tournament.
It was the first title game without a No. 1 seed since 1994 and only the second overall — and it turned out to be a good one.
After a back-and-forth first half and with the Aggies trailing 48-43 early in the second half, Adams simply took over.
The 6-foot-1 center scored 10 of the next 13 points for the Aggies to give them a 56-53 lead midway through the second half. They extended the advantage to 64-57 behind the two Sydneys — Carter and Colson.
Notre Dame battled back behind Diggins and Devereaux Peters. The Irish scored nine of the next 11 points to tie the score at 66 on Diggins' jumper with 3:56 left.
But Adams was too much, hitting nine of her first 10 shots in the half.
Diggins finished with 23 points and Peters added 21 and 11 rebounds for Notre Dame (31-8).
"We turned it over too much. I don't know if it was nerves or what," Diggins said. "We just didn't handle the pressure."