ND Women’s Basketball: Title time?
Andrew Owens | Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Notre Dame can put the finishing touches on one of the most remarkable seasons in NCAA tournament history when it faces Texas A&M tonight in the championship game.
Both teams are coming off back-to-back victories over No. 1 seeds after pulling off upsets in the national semifinals Sunday. Notre Dame (31-7) earned a 72-63 win over two-time defending champion Connecticut, while Texas A&M (32-5) ousted Stanford in a 63-62 thriller.
“In some ways we’re mirror images of each other because we’ve got great guard play and pretty good defense,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “And they’ve got an outstanding player in [senior forward] Danielle Adams.”
Adams scored 16 points and grabbed six rebounds in 32 energetic minutes for the Aggies in the win over Stanford.
“[Playing Texas A&M] is something I haven’t actually spent a lot of time thinking about, and when I was watching them through the tournament, I thought, boy, they’d be a really tough team to play,” McGraw said.
While Notre Dame will participate in its second championship game in program history, Texas A&M has never reached the title game before.
“It feels great,” junior guard Sydney Carter said. “I’m just ready to play again. We’re going to the final game, and we just have to push through and do it again.”
The story of the semifinal match for the Irish was the play of sophomore point guard and emotional leader Skylar Diggins, who has quickly emerged as one of the nation’s most talented players. She scored 28 points on 10-of-14 shooting to knock off Connecticut, who lost Sunday for only the second time in 115 games.
“[Diggins] played like [an All-American] tonight,” McGraw said after her point guard’s performance to defeat the Huskies. “She did it all. She ran the team. She scored. She made good passes, good decisions.”
Ten years ago, the Irish defeated Connecticut in the national semifinals, also in upset fashion. Led by Notre Dame Ring of Honor inductee Ruth Riley, the squad defeated Purdue two nights after beating the Huskies to earn the program’s first national championship.
“Every team in America wants to be where we are right now and we’re going to take advantage of that,” freshman forward Natalie Achonwa said.
The Irish and Aggies will battle tonight at 8:30 p.m. at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis for the national title.