WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: UND team returns from Texas, already looking forward to next season
COLLEGE STATION, Texas – UND’s game against Texas A&M in the first round of the NCAA Division I women’s basketball tournament Sunday night made it clear that North Dakota likely will be one of the favorites in the Big Sky Conference next season.
With a relatively young team, UND stayed with A&M longer than most anticipated. An early second-half run by the Aggies was the difference in A&M’s 70-55 win.
Anticipation for next season surfaced in the UND locker room minutes after the game.
“Well, we talked about it a little bit in the locker room and the big thing is that we have to start building next week, we really do,” said second-year UND coach Travis Brewster. “We have to start preparing again. Obviously with recruits we have to get them used to how we do things.”
Under Brewster, UND’s way of doing things is becoming clear. UND won the Big Sky with a physical style of basketball. It played with a little bit of an edge.
“That’s how we play basketball,” Brewster said. “We don’t back down from anybody. When you meet a team that’s better, you have to understand and respect them for that.
“We talked about how we wanted to play this game from the beginning. We didn’t want to quit. I think so many times you see teams that are just happy to be here. Our team was enjoying it and we were happy, but there was another goal.”
UND’s edge showed in the second half. A&M went up 56-31 with 12:10 remaining, but UND, behind senior Madi Buck, kept plugging away. The 30- or 40-point blowout many expected didn’t happen.
Instead, UND cut the deficit to 10 points (65-55) with 1:19 to play.
“We never gave up; we never backed down,” said UND junior Emily Evers, who scored nine points. “That’s just the way we were taught to play and the way we’re always going to play.”
UND loses three players from a team that finished 22-10. One of the three is Madi Buck, who scored 22 points in her final game. Buck was UND’s big-time player this season, shining in nearly all of North Dakota’s pressure games.
But UND returns a wealth of talent, led by Mia Loyd, who averaged 13.8 points and 9.1 rebounds.
The season was historic for UND, which won a league title and advanced to the Big Dance in only its second season of NCAA postseason eligibility.
Coaches and players now will focus on taking the next step, becoming a Big Sky contender on a yearly basis.