Texas A&M Women Snag First NCAA Title

The Aggies of Texas A&M won their first NCAA women's national championship, toppling Notre Dame 76-70.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

The Texas A&M women's basketball team made the most of its first-ever appearance in the national championship game. Last night in Indianapolis, the Aggies won. They beat Notre Dame 76-to-70 in a thrilling back and forth contest; another Indiana team going down to defeat. The game may have lacked star power but it had plenty of action.

Here's NPR's Tom Goldman.

TOM GOLDMAN: On the road to last night, Texas A&M and Notre Dame had vanquished the superpowers: UConn, Tennessee, Stanford and Baylor. And it left us all a bit adrift. could we trust the Aggies and Fightin' Irish to fill the superstar void? Could we survive without those we thought were the best? For anyone lucky enough to be in Conseco Fieldhouse last night, and you could have been there because there were 872 empty seats, there were plenty of bests.

(Soundbite of song, "Notre Dame Victory March")

(Soundbite of cheering)

GOLDMAN: There was the Notre Dame fight song - the best ever. And yes, we'll be expecting your angry letters. And more to the point of the evening, there were the two best teams in women's college basketball playing a rip-snorter of a game; easily the best national championship game of the week. And I swore I wasn't going to bring up the boys of Butler and UConn. Sorry, guys.

Anyway, early on, it was all Texas A&M with the Aggies vaunted and swarming defense leaving the Irish looking like little lost leprechauns. But Notre Dame came back and took a two-point lead at the half.

Irish fan Matt McGraw wasn't surprised at all.

Mr. MATT MCGRAW: Tough start, great ending. You know, it's a really good team. They stay loose. They don't lose focus. They're, you know, they're really good players. They're sharp kids. They're very well coached.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GOLDMAN: What do you expect from Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw's husband?

But while Matt was laughing, Texas A&M coach Gary Blair wasn't. In the locker room, he was, in his words: Using the whip a little. Specifically, ordering center Danielle Adams to stop shooting jump shots and to get her big body inside. The 6'1 Adams followed orders and went out and earned the tournament's Most Outstanding Player Award.

Ms. DANIELLE ADAMS (Center, Texas A&M University): I had a little voice in my head that said: Don't let this team down. And they've been doing everything for me, so I decided to take them on my back and just let them ride on my back.

GOLDMAN: What a ride. Adams scored 22 points in the second half, 16 in the paint, as they say. She had 30 for the game.

And guess what? The championship had a star after all. Not far behind was A&M guard Tyra White. She scored the winning layup against Stanford. Last night, near the end of a taut, see-saw second half, she hit a huge three-point jumper with about a minute left as the shot clock expired.

Ms. TYRA WHITE (Point Guard, Texas A&M University): That was the game. That play right there. Question back there.

GOLDMAN: Ultimately, it was a night of sighs and tears for Muffet McGraw and her players. For Aggies fans reveling in their first women's basketball championship, well, we had the Notre Dame band - so equal time requires me to present Margarita Delagarza Graham from Tyler, Texas.

Ms. MARGARITA DELAGARZA GRAHAM: (Singing) The eyes of Texas are upon you...

GOLDMAN: Less musical but endlessly colorful, A&M's Gary Blair was crowned the winning coach and the official character of the Final Four.

Unidentified Woman: We'll begin with an opening statement from Coach Blair, then we'll take questions for the student athletes.

Mr. GARY BLAIR (coach, Texas A&M university): Howdy.

GOLDMAN: Throughout his stay in Indianapolis, Blair charmed with his twang, challenged reporters to write about who was at the Final Four instead of who wasn't. And last night, again, he had the last word.

Mr. BLAIR: We gave you that national championship game without the so-called powers of the world. The two powers tonight were the two that earned it and that's Notre Dame and that's Texas A&M.

Tom Goldman, NPR News, Indianapolis.

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