White propels Aggies into title game
Notes: Texas A&M goes perfect from the free-throw line
Tyra White made the critical difference for Texas A&M down the stretch, scoring nine of her team’s final 17 points -- including the go-ahead layup with 3.3 seconds to play.
“With about six or seven minutes to go in the game,” said Aggies head coach Gary Blair, “Kelly Bond, my associate head coach, came up and said ‘Carter is spent. She’s out of gas.’ But I couldn’t take her out, so we had to quit calling as many plays for her as we were doing. And so we started calling Tyra’s plays. Tyra is never going to say anything. She’s a low-maintenance kid just like Danielle. Some kids are going to demand the ball but all of a sudden we started calling her number and she started delivering.”
Aggies point guard Sydney Colson got her sixth and final assist of the evening on a bounce pass to White on the game-winning basket.
“[White] was there and I gave her a bounce pass, and she finished with two people hanging all over her like monkeys in a gym,” said Colson.
“I just seen her take off and said I have to catch up really fast,” said White of the critical play. “Then I started sprinting. I figured she was going to pass me the ball. When she passed it to me, I just heard Coach Blair’s voice in my head saying pin the ball. So that’s what I did.”
Colson never considered keeping the ball and taking the final shot herself.
“Tyra is a much better finisher than I am,” said Colson. “She’s taller. She pins the ball better. And I just had to put the past turnovers I had behind me. I knew what I was doing to get those. I was making not so hard passes, not snapping the ball or pushing in transition and getting it knocked off my foot.
“I just needed to clear my mind. And [Associate head coach Vic] Schaefer was telling us before the game a clear mind makes good plays. I let everything go that happened in the past that was negative, and just pushed the ball. And Tyra did an excellent job for us on the pass, in the last minute or so.”
Texas A&M was shooting 30-percent or lower from the floor for the majority of the game. In the first half, the Aggies were just 10-of-33 from the floor (30.3-percent) and finished at 35.4-percent for the game (23-of-65). By contrast, Stanford hit 50-percent from the floor for the game, but were just 13-of-19 for a 68.4-percent success rate from the free-throw line.
By contrast, Texas A&M was perfect from the line, going 10-for-10 on free throws, all in the second half. That included four of point guard Sydney Colson’s points on the night, as she was 4-for-4 at the line and had a lone three-pointer on five attempts from the floor in the game. Colson did not score her first point of the evening until she hit a pair of free throws with 14:05 remaining in the game.
Danielle Adams was hit in the face with a basketball early in the first half and took a charge, sending her to the deck once again at the 12-minute media time out. Adams was able to remain in the game until she picked up her second foul at the 8:56 mark. When Adams went to the bench, the Aggies held a 17-11 lead. During the seven-plus minutes she spent on the bench, Stanford was able to change the tempo of the game and by the time Adams returned to the court with 1:45 to play in the half, the Cardinal held a 27-23 lead.
Blair noted that the critical point in the game was keeping Stanford’s lead to just four points at the half.
“The key to the first half, after they made their run,” said Blair, “I had Danielle with two fouls. Our kids were doing a decent job, but they were not rebounding. That’s what Danielle does.
“So all my subs came in and got zero rebounds in that whole time. The key was holding it to four points. Holding it to four points where they could have made the run and got it to 10.”
Dr. Nan Smith-Blair, wife of Texas A&M head coach Gary Blair, did not have an easy trip to Indianapolis for the Final Four. The Blairs have a commuter marriage with Gary in College Station, Texas, coaching the Aggies and Smith-Blair serving as the director of nursing at the University of Arkansas.
Smith-Blair attempted to depart Fayetteville, Ark., on Friday to fly to Indianapolis, only to discover that she had been booked out of Fayetteville, N.C.
“I would have panicked if we had been playing that night,” said Smith-Blair. “But since we were playing Sunday, I figured worst-case scenario I could get in the car and drive.”
Smith-Blair did eventually arrive safely in Indianapolis, arriving roughly five hours behind schedule at 8 p.m. EDT.
To add to the drama, Friday was Smith-Blair’s birthday.
“Actually, that was the first time we had spent my birthday together since 1998, which was the last time his team came to the Final Four, when he was at Arkansas.”