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Notes: McGraw reaches third Final Four

| Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Experience returns

The 2011 season marked the third time Irish coach Muffet McGraw has coached a Notre Dame team to the Final Four. Only seven coaches have made more appearances in the national semifinals. With the exception of senior forward Becca Bruszewski, Notre Dame returns all of its starters next season in the campaign for a fourth appearance.

“We’ve got a young team, so we’ve got a lot of people with a lot of experience coming back,” Mcgraw said. “Becca is a leader for us. We’re going to miss her — the intangible part of her game.”

Home cooking

Notre Dame is just the third school in NCAA history to play the championship game in its home state. Stanford defeated Western Kentucky 78-62 in 1992, and USC defeated Tennessee 72-61 in their home state of California.

“Thank you to Indianapolis for giving us a show,” Aggies coach Gary Blair said. “The hospitality was great.”

Peters shoots lights-out

Capping her first full season in an Irish uniform, senior forward Devereaux Peters finished the game with an 80 percent field goal percentage (8-10). The mark is the third-best field goal percentage in a national title game and is tied for sixth-best in a Final Four game.

McGraw said Peters’ effort on the national stage should serve as a springboard heading into next season, her final year of eligibility.

“She really settled into her game, did a nice job on the boards,” McGraw said. “I thought she was effective around the basket. She scored well. She rebounded well. She defended pretty well. Overall, I thought [the performance was] kind of a nice momentum builder for her going into next year.”

First time’s the charm

Earning its first national title in program history in its first appearance in the Final Four, Texas A&M became the seventh No. 2-seed to win the NCAA tournament. The Aggies became the first team since Baylor in 2005 to win the national championship in its first Final Four appearance. The Aggies’ 33 wins is the highest mark in program history.

“Aggies all over the nation – I got letters from Afghanistan, Iraq — just telling me how people were getting up at four o’clock in the morning watching,” Blair said. “We got soldiers fighting in a lot of different places right now — they are fighting for us to be able to play this little game of basketball … But women’s basketball needed this game perhaps more than Texas A&M or Notre Dame needed it.”

Blair’s breakthrough

Tuesday’s win moved Blair to a 13-5 all-time record in the NCAA tournament, but the victory marked his first national championship as a head coach. Blair served as an assistant coach on national champion Louisiana Tech in 1982, the year of the first NCAA Women’s Division I Basketball Championships.