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DALLAS (AP) — When the NCAA brackets came out, Texas A&M coach Gary Blair knew his team would have to get past top-seeded Baylor to get to the Final Four for the first time.
Well, when it mattered most, the Aggies finally beat Baylor and 6-foot-8 All-American Brittney Griner.
After eight consecutive losses to its Big 12 rivals, including the previous three this season, Sydney Carter got Texas A&M off to a fast start and went on to score 22 points in a 58-46 victory over the top-seeded Bears in the Dallas Regional final.
“This was a very special game,” Blair said. “We didn’t ask to play Baylor, we asked to be recognized for what we accomplished during the year. They chose to put us in the same region. ... Both of us could have been in the Final Four, both of us should have been in the Final Four.”
Baylor and Griner will have to settle for the Big 12 regular season and tournament trophies.
the still-young Bears (34-3) already won this season.
The Aggies (31-5) blew a nine-point lead midway through the second half in Waco last month. They squandered a 12-0 start in the Big 12 championship game just more than three weeks ago, two days before the brackets were unveiled with the conference’s top two teams being the top two seeds in the same bracket.
This time, Blair’s team lead from start-to-finish after Carter had a 3-pointer, an assist and a jumper in the game’s first 2 minutes for a 7-0 lead. The Aggies were coming off a 41-point rout two days earlier.
“Once we beat Georgia, the feeling began then,” Carter said. “There was definitely confidence, an all-around confidence going around the locker room before the game. ... We told ourselves this is our game. We were going to come in confident and this was our game.”
Sydney Colson added 12 points for Texas A&M, including some important scores after two free throws by Griner had gotten Baylor within 48-41 with 4½ minutes left.
Colson blew past Griner and missed, but was fouled and made both free throws. Right after that, Colson had a steal and took it all the way for a layup and was fouled again. With the A&M bench going wild, and the stunned Baylor players sitting and staring ahead, Colson finished the three-point play to make it 53-41.
On the same day leading scorer Danielle Adams was named an All-American, she was only a complementary player for the Aggies with another subpar game against Baylor. And that was plenty all right with the 6-foot-1 senior who had only six points — all after halftime.
“I was the happiest person in the world,” Adams said. “Six points? I mean my teammates had my back.”
As the final seconds ticked off the clock, Adams was bouncing around and screaming. Then she got to help cut down the net.
Griner, coming off a 40-point game Sunday against Wisconsin-Green Bay after scoring 30 the game before that, had 20 points and nine rebounds. But she struggled all night shooting, making only 6 of 18 from the field, including a missed dunk attempt. After making all 10 free throw attempts Sunday, she was 8 of 15 against the Aggies.