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Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Notre Dame 35, Texas A&M 33

By Charlie Creme
Special to ESPN.com

INDIANAPOLIS -- A look at the first half of Tuesday's national championship game between Notre Dame and Texas A&M at Conseco Fieldhouse.

First-half analysis: Notre Dame 35, Texas A&M 33

HOW THE HALF WAS WON: Notre Dame got the lead late simply by hanging in there. The start was bad for the offense with early turnovers. The middle was not good for the defense. The Irish couldn't seem to get a stop. But just past the midway point, Notre Dame upped its defense and did a better job on the boards, which allowed the scorers to do something. Offensive efficiency then took over and the Irish finished the first half on a 19-4 run while shooting 59.1 percent over the first 20 minutes. Their reputation of being good finishers delivered in the final eight minutes.

PLAYER OF THE HALF: Texas A&M's Danielle Adams. At least early. She firmly established herself early with four quick points and two monster screens that led to A&M's other two baskets. The Aggies went away from using her in the low post for the middle part of the first half and that's when things began to go Notre Dame's way. Adams has eight points, but missed seven of her final nine shots.

PLAYER OF THE HALF II: Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins. She turned it over early more than the Irish would have liked and didn't dominate in the first half the way she has the past two games, but Diggins eventually established herself as the best player on the floor. She has eight points, but did it with just six shots and was instrumental in getting the ball down low to Devereaux Peters, who leads Notre Dame with 10.

PLAYER OF THE HALF III: Texas A&M's Tyler White. The junior guard was A&M's best player throughout the half and finished with eight points on 4-of-5 shooting. She got in close and shot the top-of-the-key jumper while playing all 20 minutes.

TURNING POINT: A&M established what it wanted to do right away. Notre Dame had turnovers on three of its first five possessions because of the Aggies' defense, both in the half court and with the full-court press. That's what got A&M off to a 12-4 lead by the first timeout.

TURNING POINT II: Right around the 8-minute mark Notre Dame picked up its level on defense and that got the Irish back in the game. Diggins triggered it, forcing a turnover on Sydney Colson's backup, Adrienne Pratcher. That was a key play in an 8-0 Notre Dame run that got them back in the game at 29-24.

TURNING POINT III: The run eventually became 19-4 covering the final 8:04 of the first half, and the key play inside that Notre Dame spurt was Colson picking up her third foul on a silly reach in on Diggins with 4:55 left. She went to the bench and some emotion went out of A&M and seemed to transfer right to Notre Dame. Diggins was a better player from that stage, scoring six of her eight points after that.

THREE THINGS NOTRE DAME HAS TO DO TO WIN:
1. Stay composed. Early on, the Irish got rattled by the A&M defense. The worst is probably over, especially with Colson having three fouls, but it will still be a key of the second half.
2. More movement. At points early in the first half, Notre Dame was running the high pick-and-roll with Diggins and Peters, but everyone else was standing and watching. Things got better when the offense spread out and everyone got involved.
3. Stay active on the glass. The Irish gave up some second chances early on, but got better as the half wore on. The teams were even, 15-15, on the glass.

THREE THINGS TEXAS A&M HAS TO DO TO WIN
1. Get more from the Sydneys. Their defense was talked up for the past two days, but they only combined for two field goals. The Aggies need more offense from them, too.
2. Go back to Adams. She looked great early. She was active, wanted the ball and her body language was good on both ends. Then she went invisible for the middle part of the half.
3. Challenge more at the rim. Who shoots 59 percent against the Aggies? Notre Dame did and most of those conversions were from in close.

Charlie Creme can be reached at cwcreme@yahoo.com.