COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- 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 1/2 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."
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. Gilbert has 64 blocks this season to become the first Aggie to have at least 60 in a season. Scott finished with 14 points and Jordan Jones had eight points and 11 assists for A&M. Jones set a school record for blocks in a season with 237.
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.
The Aggies had a 20-point lead with nine minutes left before a 15-7 run by North Dakota, with most of A&M's starters on the bench, cut the lead to 65-53 with less than two minutes to go. North Dakota made eight free throws in that time and Buck capped the run with a 3-pointer.
Blair called a timeout after Buck's 3 and had his arms crossed and shook his head as he slowly walked toward the players during the break.
Texas A&M led by seven points early before North Dakota used a 13-8 run to get within 18-16 with eight minutes left in the first half. Buck scored the last eight points of the run capped by a pair of 3-pointers.
The Aggies scored the next six points before an 8-0 spurt by North Dakota tied it at 24-all with two minutes left in the first half.
A free throw by Siri Burck tied it at 26-26 a few seconds later, but the Aggies scored the last four points of the half to take a 30-26 lead into halftime.