A&M's Danielle Adams stars on biggest stage
INDIANAPOLIS -- The team that didn't win its conference title, couldn't beat mighty Baylor until the fourth try, wasn't necessarily on the short list when the contenders were mentioned as the brackets were revealed ... that was the team hugging and crying and celebrating as the confetti dropped from the rafters at Conseco Fieldhouse on Tuesday night.
Texas A&M completed its first trip to the Final Four with the program's first NCAA title, beating Notre Dame 76-70 in a showcase for women's basketball.
And Danielle Adams was the game's star. She was named the Final Four's most outstanding player after her 30-point performance.
It could be argued that no player in college women's basketball has made such a big impact on a program in such a short period of time.
Adams came to College Station two years ago as a junior college transfer from Jefferson College in Missouri. She was the juco national player of the year in 2009 and led Jefferson to the juco national title game, a game her team lost.
But not this time.
"I had a little voice in my head that said, 'Don't let this team down,'" Adams said. "And my teammates, every time we would get down, we would tell each other, 'We're not going to lose this game.'"
This is not the kind of ending many junior college players get to experience.
Many times juco players are added to Division I teams to fill holes in depleted rosters, rarely to lead a team to a title. Not since Sheryl Swoopes, who led Texas Tech to the title in 1993, has a junior college player had this success on this stage.
But nothing about Adams' college basketball career has been typical.
She is a 6-foot-1 post who lost 40 pounds in the offseason but is still referred to with phrases like "a load" and a "big body."
She doesn't get down the floor particularly fast. There are times, in fact, when she walks.
Players that dominate they way Adams rules the paint -- and there are moments when she's unstoppable underneath -- shouldn't be able to step out and shoot 3-pointers with such comfort.
Her midrange game is wicked, her shot flat and soft and accurate. Her sense underneath the basket is uncanny.
She's tough to move and hard to get around, and, against the Irish, she was simply the difference.
Notre Dame led 35-33 at the half after coming back from an 18-6 deficit to open the game. The second half saw the lead change five times and the score tied four times. Adams scored 10 points in the final 11 minutes. She got Irish players in foul trouble.
She made nine of her 11 shots in the second half, propelling the Aggies to 68.2 percent shooting.
Propelling them to a title.
"I just took the game over," Adams said, without an ounce of arrogance. "I wasn't going to let my team lose. I mean, they have been doing everything for me, so I decided to take them on my back and just let them ride on my back."
Adams is going to move on to be a top pick in the WNBA draft.
The Aggies will move on with Kelsey Bone, the star center who transferred in from South Carolina and will be able to play next season.
But the memories of an extraordinary Tuesday night in Indiana will last much longer than the time Adams spent on campus.
"It does seem like it went by so quickly," senior guard Sydney Colson said. "But we relished in every second of it. Danielle has meant a lot to this program ... I'm happy to play with her for these two years."