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WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: UND stays hard at work in College Station

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COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The UND women’s basketball team left Grand Forks International Airport on Friday morning in less-than-ideal weather. The players’ departure for the NCAA Division I women’s basketball tournament came during a winter storm, even though the calendar says it’s spring.

But the cold, snow and wind of Grand Forks were forgotten when UND’s charter plane touched down in College Station later in the day. It was blue skies, green grass and temperatures in the 70s that greeted the UND players.

“It’s been pretty nice all week and as soon as we try to get out of Grand Forks it starts storming,” said UND senior Siri Burck. “But we made it.”

The weather perk didn’t last long. It was back to work for UND, which held its last full practice before Sunday night’s first-round Lincoln Regional game against Texas A&M at Reed Arena.

Everything, they say, is bigger in Texas. And the men’s and women’s practice facilities that are connected to Reed Arena certainly aren’t small. Both rival the size of The Betty.

UND, seeded No. 14 in the tournament, practiced for more than an hour as it prepares to meet No. 3 seed Texas A&M, a team that is long, athletic, physical and plays an up-tempo style.

“The game is our main focus and we need to eliminate the distractions along the way,” said Burck.

Reality, said UND coach Travis Brewster, is beginning to set in for his players.

The hype of UND advancing into the NCAA Division I tournament for the first time is beginning to simmer. Now, the attention is on A&M, which won the national championship in 2011.

“This is a great opportunity and we’re thankful for it,” said Burck. “But we worked hard for this.”

UND has played at other big-time venues such as the 13,000-seat Reed Arena.

“The players aren’t in awe,” Brewster said. “They’re OK with it. But at the same time, it’s exciting for them. You land and you’re being escorted off the tarmac by NCAA officials.”

And it’s rare when programs like UND women’s basketball fly on a chartered plane.

Today, UND will practice at Reed Arena in the afternoon. Before practice, UND, along with the other three teams in the Lincoln sub-regional, will hold press conferences at Reed Arena.

But that’s about all that’s on the agenda.

“We’ll get a chance for a little extra sleep and there will be a little more down time,” said Brewster.

On Sunday, UND will play in one of the program’s biggest games in its history.

UND’s goal since it joined the Big Sky and became NCAA-tournament eligible has been to reach the Big Dance.

Reality will set in Sunday night.

“We’re on a mission,” said Madi Buck. “The competitive edge will come to us because it’s such a big game in a great atmosphere and on a whole different level.”

Wayne Nelson
Nelson is the sports editor of the Herald
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