Burkholder leads James Madison over Gonzaga 72-63
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) James Madison coach Kenny Brooks was enjoying breakfast on Sunday morning when he got a text from the team's trainer that put an immediate damper on his big day.
He learned that Kirby Burkholder, the Colonial Athletic Association player of the year, had been up most of the night ill with an upset stomach.
But he was well aware of how tough she was and knew ''if anybody could push through it, Kirby could.''
And she did.
Burkholder had 28 points with 18 rebounds to lead No. 11 seed James Madison to a 72-63 win over sixth-seed Gonzaga the first round of the NCAA tournament for its first tournament win since 1991.
''It's unbelievable,'' said Brooks, who was on the James Madison's men's team the last time the women got a tournament victory. ''It just shows you how tough she is.''
Burkholder said she felt better after filling up with fluids all day Sunday.
''I just tried to put that aside and just play through it,'' she said. ''I was tired but I was just trying to just play hard.''
A 3-pointer by Shaniqua Nilles put Gonzaga up by four points before James Madison (29-5) used a 12-0 run to take a 59-51 lead with 3 1/2 minutes left. Burkholder had six points and two steals in that stretch.
Gonzaga didn't score for almost five minutes as James Madison took the lead.
''I don't even really know what happened,'' Gonzaga's Sunny Greinacher said of that stretch. ''They were so strong in that period of time. They really got us on our heels.''
The Bulldogs cut the lead to six points with 1:39 left, but Burkholder made a pair of free throws to extend the lead and James Madison held on for the win.
Gonzaga (29-5) was led by Greinacher, who had 17 points and Haiden Palmer added 14.
It was James Madison's first trip to the tournament since 2011 and the sixth straight for Gonzaga, which had the highest seed in school history. Now the Dukes will have to beat host Texas A&M to make it to the Sweet 16.
Burkholder led the league with 106 3-pointers. But she had a tough time shooting on Sunday, going 4 for 17. But she didn't have any problems with her free throws and 17 of 18.
When she capped James Madison's big run with a 3-pointer, the band went wild and held up a sign reading ''You got Kirby'd,'' their signature chant when she hits a 3.
''Taking over the game in a variety ways - that's what she does,'' Brooks said. ''That's the way we recruited her. We didn't recruit her as a shooter. We recruited her as a basketball player and we made her into a shooter. So when things aren't going well for her from the 3-point line she resorts back to her old ways of being just a basketball player and that's what you saw tonight.''
Toia Giggetts added 15 points and Precious Hall had 11 points for James Madison.
''We got the shots we wanted,'' Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves said. ''We just didn't make them. The bottom line is you've got to make baskets.''
Gonzaga used a 6-0 run to take a 48-44 lead with about nine minutes left. That run was started by a 3-point play by Palmer where she made an off-balanced shot before crashing to the court.
Burkholder pushed James Madison's lead to five points with three free throws to start the second half before Gonzaga scored five straight points to tie it at 36-all with about 18 minutes left.
Sunny Greinacher's second 3-point play of the half put Gonzaga up 39-38 - its first lead since early in the first half - with just under 15 minutes remaining.
James Madison trailed by 3 early in the first half before using a 13-4 run to take a 17-11 lead about 12 minutes before halftime. James Madison got points from five different players during that stretch and Gonzaga missed four 3-pointers as they fell behind.
Lindsay Sherbert finally ended Gonzaga's 3-point drought when she made one a few seconds later before the team added a free throw to cut the lead to 2 points.
James Madison started another run after that, outscoring Gonzaga 10-4 over the next 4 1/2 minutes to extend the lead to 27-19.
The Dukes didn't have a turnover until a shot clock violation with 4:33 remaining in the first half. The next time they had the ball, they missed three shots but grabbed the rebound after each miss before Lauren Okafor finally finished the possession with a layup that made it 31-23.
Gonzaga used an 8-2 run, with six points from Palmer, to close out the first half and cut the lead to 33-31 at halftime.