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Senior Madi Buck finished out a fantastic UND career with 22 points and nine rebounds in Sunday's NCAA Tournament game.
Aggies use early second half push to win tourney opener
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Updated: Thursday 03/24/2014 01:20:44 (ET)
by Mitch Wigness, UND Media Relations
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas-- Third-seeded Texas A&M used an 18-4 run to start the second half to put some distance between themselves and an upset-minded North Dakota in a 70-55 win Sunday night in the first round of the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Tournament. UND trailed by just four at the break attempting to become the first-ever 14 seed to win a tourney game, but the Aggies raced out of the gate in the second frame to grab the win.

“I think what you saw today was a basketball team that came out of transition from D2 to Division 1, that plays with a lot of heart," UND head coach Travis Brewster said. "I think if you look at the 4-minute span there in the second half, Texas A&M kind of made their run at us. They are a high caliber team. I wish them the best of luck. I think they are coached very well. Coach Blair does a heck of a job motivating them, but it is tough to sit here. We are not the kind of people that relish in any type of moral victories. We had every intent of going out and trying to have some success today. Today we ran into a team that was better than us. It hasn’t happened a lot this year for us, but at the same time I’m very proud of this team and the way they played, I really am.”

Proving it belonged on the big stage, UND (22-10) fought bucket for bucket with the Aggies in the first half. North Dakota held a 3-2 lead before a quick 8-0 run had A&M up 10-3 four minutes in. UND responded with four straight points on a bucket by Emily Evers and a pair of free throw makes from Makailah Dyer.

The lead hovered around a possession or two for the bulk of the opening frame with the bigger Aggies unable to take UND out of its game. An 8-0 North Dakota spurt near the end of the frame quieted the home crowd and swung the momentum heavily in favor of the visitors.

The run started with a nifty slice to the basket and finish by Leah Szabla then Evers was left alone at the top of the key and made the Aggies pay. Trying to force a pass down low, Evers eventually put the ball on the floor, spun 360 degrees and layed it in with her left hand off the glass.

It was all square at 26-apiece with 1:23 left in the opening half when A&M got back-to-back buckets from Tori Scott to go into the locker room at the break with a four-point lead.

At halftime, UND turned the ball over just six times under the A&M pressure and held a 9-2 advantage in bench points through 20 minutes.

In the second half, the Aggies ratcheted up the defense to allow UND just 1-of-4 opportunities from the floor in the first 4:30 coupled with five turnovers in that span to rack up an 18-point lead at 46-28. That edge would grow to as many as 22 with just over 12 minutes to go, but the fight never left a team that was making its first-ever appearance in the Big Dance in its second season of eligibility.

With the deficit at 19 and 5:19 showing on the clock, the visitors began to chip away. Madi Buck and Dyer each completed free throw trips and then later a Buck triple, her fourth of the night, made things interesting at 65-53. Buck would grab an offensive rebound and get the put back on the next possession and it was back to a 10-point game but just 1:20 remained.

Texas A&M was able to knock down 5-of-6 free throws down the stretch to keep the game out of reach and usher the Aggies into the second round. A&M will host 11-seeded James Madison Tuesday, who upset 6-seed Gonzaga in the day's earlier game.

Buck finished the night and her superb UND career with 22 points, nine rebounds, three blocks and two steals. Evers contributed nine points and eight rebounds for North Dakota.

Three Aggie players were in double figures led by 19 from Courtney Walker. Scott and Karla Gilbert each added 14.

North Dakota, the Big Sky Conference regular season co-champs and tournament title holders, finishes its season at 22-10 overall, doubling its win total from a season ago.

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