Courtney Walker had 19 points and eight rebounds and third-seeded Texas A&M used a big run to pull away from tournament newcomer North Dakota and cruise to a 70-55 win Sunday night in the first round of the women’s NCAA Tournament.
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.
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 that spanned the first and second halves to go on top 40-26 with 16:30 remaining.
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 their lead.
Karla Gilbert added 14 points with eight rebounds and five blocks for the Aggies, who won in the opening round of the tournament for the eighth consecutive year. Scott finished with 14 points and Jordan Jones had eight points and 11 assists for A&M.
Texas A&M will face No. 11 seed James Madison in the second round on Tuesday night.
North Dakota didn’t score in the second half until a jump shot by Buck with about 16 minutes left. The team couldn’t build on that, though, and Texas A&M scored the next six points to extend its advantage to 46-28.
Gilbert took over soon after that, scoring eight of A&M’s points in a 10-5 spurt that made it 56-34 with 12 minutes remaining.