COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — Texas A&M wasn't exactly overjoyed after its victory over North Dakota in the first round of the NCAA women's tournament on Sunday night.
The No. 3 seed Aggies were disappointed that they let tournament newcomer and 14-seed North Dakota stick around for a half before using a big run to pull away and cruise to the 70-55 win.
"We've got to play a lot better if we expect to go anywhere else in the NCAA tournament," coach Gary Blair said. "We're going to take the 'W' and learn from it and grow from it."
Courtney Walker had 19 points and eight rebounds to lead Texas A&M.
The Aggies, who won the national title in 2011, were making their ninth straight appearance in the tournament and North Dakota was one of five women's teams in the tournament for the first time. But North Dakota wasn't happy to simply compete well.
"It's tough to sit here and we're not the type of people that relish in any sort of moral victories," North Dakota coach Travis Brewster said.
North Dakota didn't look like a tournament rookie early. The game was tied late in the first half before Texas A&M (25-8) went on a 14-0 run which spanned the first and second halves to go on top 40-26 with 16 ½ minutes remaining.
"By far this was one of the worst games we've played, but I was glad we were able to pick it up and pull it out in the second half," Texas A&M's Karla Gilbert said.
Madi Buck led North Dakota (22-10) with 22 points and nine rebounds.
Tori Scott and Walker made six points each in that stretch. North Dakota missed two shots at the beginning of the second half before Texas A&M's smothering defense forced them into turnovers on four straight possessions to help the Aggies build the lead.
"Credit them because they cranked it up and used all their strengths to their advantage," Brewster said of that stretch.
Blair thinks his team may have been a little off because it hadn't played since March 8.
"What we were not doing well was making good decisions," Blair said. "When you're off 15 days I think it really shows in your shooting percentage and sometimes in your thinking."