TOM MILLER: Buck leaves program in a good place
COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Madi Buck had an emotional exit from the final game of her UND basketball career Sunday night as she walked off the court at Reed Arena.
It wasn’t much easier for North Dakota head coach Travis Brewster, who had to fight back emotions when asked after the game about the impact of the 6-foot forward from Bismarck.
No. 3 seed Texas A&M bounced No. 14 UND 70-55 in the first round of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament in North Dakota’s first trip to the Big Dance.
That meant Buck’s career in a UND jersey came to an end on the campus of Texas A&M. However, her impact at North Dakota will last much longer.
Buck, who’s scored more than 1,000 points at UND, has guided North Dakota onto the Division I map. She’s taken the team from the Great West Conference to the Big Sky Conference to the NCAA tournament.
Against the Aggies, Buck — the Big Sky player of the year — scored 22 points highlighted by 4-for-6 shooting from the 3-point line. She had nine rebounds, three blocks and two steals in a game-high 37 minutes.
The highly productive night was a fitting end to a standout career that started when she scored 11 points in 2010 against Wisconsin-Green Bay.
From start to finish, Buck produced for the Green and White. On Sunday, she didn’t back down a bit from the Aggies of the Southeastern Conference, a program that won the national championship in 2011.
Buck was 8-for-14 from the field and her 3-point shooting was UND’s bright spot from the outside. The rest of the team was 1-for-9 from beyond the arc.
“I’m blessed to have coached her for four years,” Brewster said. “I’ve seen her grow as a player and a person. I really wish I could put it into words. I’m thankful for the opportunity to be her coach.”
Brewster started to trail off in his postgame comments as the topic became close to the heart.
“To get that type of dynamic player ... with personality ... who plays with fire ...” Brewster said. “She’s good. She’s a good person. She made us go.”
Buck thanked her teammates and coaches after the game.
“Unfortunately, we couldn’t come up with the win,” Buck said. “But my career meant so much to me.
“It was a great experience. We accomplished something that had never been done before. There is lots to be proud of. It’s a crappy feeling now, but we can’t hang our heads low. Hopefully, these guys are hungry to come back here next year.”
And if UND does return to the Big Dance, the program can thank Buck for laying the foundation.
“There’s a bright future here at North Dakota,” Brewster said, “and it all starts with the senior class.”