Aggies top James Madison 85-69 in NCAA 2nd round
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) Texas A&M spent the day leading up to its second round game in the NCAA tournament against James Madison talking about how they had to take advantage of their size with 6-foot-5 Karla Gilbert to beat the Dukes.
On Tuesday night they executed that plan to perfection.
Courtney Williams scored 23 points and Gilbert added 20 points and tied a career-high with 15 rebounds to help Texas A&M to an 85-69 win over James Madison.
''We got the ball inside all night long,'' Texas A&M coach Gary Blair said. ''They were at a disadvantage because of their size.''
The victory sends the third-seeded Aggies (26-8) to the round of 16 for the sixth time and their first since 2012. They missed reaching the third round last season after losing to Nebraska at home in this round.
''I'm glad we're beyond this game. That's all I kept thinking about,'' Gilbert said of last year's loss. ''We cannot end at Reed Arena. This can't be it. We're not done. We're hungry. We didn't want it to end like last year.''
The Aggies used an 8-2 run to build a 10-point lead early in the second half and answered each time James Madison (29-6) cut the advantage. The Dukes got within seven points with about seven minutes remaining, but A&M used an 8-0 run with four points from Gilbert to make it 81-66.
The Aggies beat No. 14 seed North Dakota in the first round and James Madison knocked off No. 6 seed Gonzaga for their first tournament win since 1991 to set up the first-ever meeting between these teams.
A&M advances to meet No. 7 seed DePaul in Lincoln, Neb., on Saturday.
Kirby Burkholder led 11th-seeded James Madison with 20 points and 10 rebounds, but had to sit out for a chunk of the second half with foul trouble. She fouled out with 1:43 remaining. Burkholder wasn't the only James Madison player to struggle with fouls as several other players had to spend time on the bench after picking up multiple fouls trying to slow down Gilbert.
''It handcuffed us. It really did,'' James Madison coach Kenny Brooks said. ''We played zone way more than I anticipated and way more than I wanted to do. When we get in foul trouble it dampers our enthusiasm.''
The Aggies shot a season-high 37 free throws and made 24.
Blair raved about Gilbert, a senior who is in her first season as a starter after waiting her turn behind stars Danielle Adams and Kelsey Bone for the last three seasons.
''She's just got heart,'' Blair said. ''She takes control of our team ... nothing ever rattles her and I'm proud to say that I'm her coach.''
Courtney Walker, who finished with 18 points, and Williams led the Aggies as they built the lead to 10 early in the second half. James Madison missed seven shots, including three layups in that stretch.
The Dukes finally got their offense going again after that, outscoring A&M 6-2 to get within 61-55. But A&M quickly added a basket by Gilbert and Burkholder got her fourth foul seconds after that, sending her to the bench with more than 12 minutes remaining.
Texas A&M used another 8-2 run with Burkholder on the bench to extend the lead to 71-59 with less than 10 minutes left. Jordan Jones capped that run with a 3-pointer. She finished with nine assists and a career-best 16 assists.
Precious Hall and Jazmon Gwathmey added 14 points each for James Madison and Toia Giggetts had 12.
James Madison led by six points midway through the first half before A&M used an 8-0 run to take a 24-22 lead. The Dukes were helped in that stretch when Nikki Newman picked up her third foul and received a technical on the same play for yelling at the officials and went to the bench for the rest of the first half.
A&M made three of the four free throws from that play before a layup by Gilbert gave the Aggies their first lead since it was 2-0.
The Dukes were up by one soon after that when the Aggies used a 7-2 spurt to take a 33-28 lead.
Texas A&M maintained the lead for the rest of the first half and a basket by Curtyce Knox left A&M up 47-43 at halftime.