Fighting Irish fail to take advantage of golden opportunity

By Etheria Modacure

INDIANAPOLIS-With support from the city and state, the University of Notre Dame Women’s basketball team had a golden opportunity to win a national championship with an added home-court advantage for the team.

Notre Dame played three hours away from its campus in South Bend, Ind. but the result was the same as Butler’s from a year ago. The Fighting Irish failed to capture its first championship since 2001, losing to Texas A & M University, 76-70 on April 6.

It was somewhat similar to a men’s basketball team that had the same chance last season.In the 2010 NCAA Men’s Final Four, the Butler University Bulldogs reached the championship game in its hometown but failed to beat the Duke University Blue Devils.

The Fighting Irish had an improbable run to the Final Four when they knocked off the No.1 seed in the Dayton region, University of Tennessee, and upset guard Maya Moore and the University of Connecticut on April 5 at the Conseco Fieldhouse.

“What an incredible season,” said Notre Dame Head Coach Muffet McGraw. “I’m so proud of the team, what they accomplished this year, where we came from in November to get to this point. It’s really remarkable the progress we made this year.”

In a matchup, no expert predicted before the Women’s tournament began, that Notre Dame and Texas A & M gave the 17,473 in attendance a classic basketball bout full of runs, bumps, and tough aggressive play.

The Aggies jumped out to a 29-21 lead midway through the first halfway and it looked as if the game would be over by halftime. Fighting Irish sophomore guard Skylar Diggins  led a Notre Dame surge ending the half on a 14-4 run to finish with a 35-33 lead.

McGraw said her team was a little nervous when the game began and they dug themselves a into hole early when they were trailing 16-6. She mentioned how Notre Dame was able to clamp on the Aggies defensively and limit the easy offensive rebounds Texas A & M was getting.

“We settled in a bit defensively,” McGraw said. “We rebounded better and we started to run some things and I thought we got a couple of good back door looks and got some good shots.”

The Irish began the second half the same way they closed the first, with effective rebounding and shot selection. One player for Notre Dame who had a solid championship game was Chicago native, senior forward Devereaux Peters who hit a record 80 percent of her shots.

Peters finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds but was unable to get much help in defending the Aggies forward Danielle Adams who had 30 points and nine rebounds.

“She’s a big post and she knows what she’s doing,” Peters said. “She got low and she got easy buckets. We couldn’t guard her.”

There was a contrast in halves for both the Irish and Aggies which ultimately decided the game. In the first half, Notre Dame shot 59 percent, and Texas A & M, 45 percent.  In the second half it was Notre Dame at 36 percent and Texas A & M at 68 percent.

The Aggies never trailed after the 11:43 mark in the second half when they were down 53-52. Afterward, the game was a constant back-and-forth contest with the Irish never trailing by more than five points.Notre Dame tied the game on a jumper by Diggins, 66-66, with 3:56 remaining. The dagger for the Irish was a shot-clock beating 3-pointer by Aggies guard Tyra White, who hit the go-ahead jumper in the national semifinal game on April 3 against Stanford University.

“That was a knife in my heart,” McGraw said. “That was the game. The disappointing thing about it was with two seconds left we didn’t get the rebound. We had two people  in there and it ended up a jump ball and that cost us the game.”

McGraw wasn’t the only person surprised by the 3-pointer, White who finished with 18 points, said she couldn’t even make that shot during practice.

“It wasn’t even in the game plan for me to shoot that three in the second half,” White said.

The Aggies were able to send off their seniors with a championship and surprised a lot of people with their victory over Notre Dame. For White, anything less would’ve been unacceptable.

“Me and my team couldn’t let our seniors [Sydney Colson and Adams] leave without winning a national championship,” White said. “We had to send them off in the right, and, baby, we sure did.”