INDIANAPOLIS - Scoring, rebounding, even making a key steal, Danielle Adams saved her best game for the biggest stage and brought 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 Texas A&M bring a title to the former all-male military academy with a thrilling 76-70 victory in front of a pro-Notre Dame crowd.
"I knew they couldn't stop me inside so that's what I did, I took it inside," Adams said.
No one was happier than Gary Blair, the outspoken A&M 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 like 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 went out and proved him right.
Tyra White added 18 points for A&M, including a huge 3-pointer as the shot clock buzzer sounded to put A&M up 73-68 with 1:07 left.
The Aggies are a national championship newcomer and bullied their way through the tournament to get to the top. Like Notre Dame, the Aggies vanquished their conference rival on the way, beating Baylor in the Dallas regional final after losing to the Lady Bears three times during the season.
Adams, who had a history of vanishing in big games, did no such thing on Tuesday night, scoring the second most points ever in a championship game (Sheryl Swoopes 47, 1993).
"Glad we came back," Blair said. "We had a bad 10 minutes in the first half. We found a way to come back, and Danielle got the ball inside."
Both teams reached the championship game by knocking off two No. 1 seeds. Notre Dame eliminated Tennessee in the regional final, then swept past Connecticut in Sunday night's national semifinals, the first time one team has taken down those two women's basketball icons in the same tournament.
A&M also had two impressive wins to get here. After beating Baylor in the regional final, the Aggies edged Stanford on Sunday night.
It was the first title game without a No. 1 seed since 1994 and only the second overall. It also was the first final without either Connecticut or Tennessee since Maryland beat Duke in overtime for the 2006 championship.
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. Texas A&M then extended the advantage to 64-57 behind the two Sydneys Carter and Colson.
But Notre Dame wouldn't give up, battling back behind its sensational sophomore guard Skylar Diggins. The Irish scored nine of the next 11 points to tie the game at 66 on Diggins' jumper with 3:56 left.
Blair went right to Adams on the next two possessions and she delivered, hitting back-to-back layups. Adams hit nine of her first 10 shots in the second half.
After Devereaux Peters' putback cut it to 70-68, White hit the huge 3. Diggins had two free throws with 40.7 seconds left, and the Irish had one last chance after a turnover by the Aggies with 29 seconds remaining.
Muffet McGraw called her final timeout, but Diggins turned it over in front of the bench. White hit two free throws to seal the win.