Senior guard Kirby Burkholder (Bridgewater, Va./Turner Ashby) scored 28 points and grabbed 18 rebounds to lead the 11th-seeded James Madison women’s basketball team to its first NCAA Tournament win since 1991 with a 72-63 victory over Gonzaga at Reed Arena in College Station, Texas, Sunday.
JMU tied its school record for wins, improving to 29-5 and moved to the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament. It faces the winner of third-seeded Texas A&M and 14th-seeded Gonzaga at 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Gonzaga finishes its season with a 29-5 record.
Burkholder added four assists, three steals and a block in leading JMU to the win over the Zags. She went 17-for-18 at the charity stripe to set a program record for made free throws, breaking Sue Manelski’s record of 15 from 1981. She also moved into fifth on the school’s all-time scoring chart, passing both Holly Rilinger (1,607) and Lesley Dickinson (1,616) in the game.
Trailing 51-47 following a Gonzaga three-pointer, JMU closed the game on a 25-12 run that included 14 points from Burkholder. That stretch included a 12-0 run by the Dukes to take a 59-51 lead it never surrendered. The Bulldogs cut it to as few as six points, but never threatened beyond that as Madison hit on 12-of-13 free throws over the final 5:23 to secure the victory.
Joining Burkholder in double figures was junior forward Toia Giggetts (Norfolk, Va./Lake Taylor) with 15 and sophomore guard Precious Hall (Tallahassee, Fla./Maclay School) with 11. Giggetts reached double figures for the 25th consecutive game and added six rebounds. Redshirt-junior center Lauren Okafor (Hamden, Conn./Hopkins School (Providence)) chipped in nine points and four rebounds while redshirt-senior forward Nikki Newman (Harrisonburg, Va./Turner Ashby) provided three points, five rebounds, three assists and four blocks.
Gonzaga was paced by Sunny Greinacher with 17 points and eight rebounds while Haiden Palmer poured in 14 points, seven assists and five rebounds. Keani Albanez was the third Bulldog in double figures with 12 points.
JMU outshot Gonzaga 36.5 percent to 32.9 percent. Each team made four three pointers with the Dukes shooting slightly better at 22.2 percent to 20 percent. JMU out-rebounded the Zags 44-40 for the contest, but were bested in second-chance points 10-7. Each team tallied 28 points in the paint.
Madison improved to 8-9 in its 10 NCAA tournament appearances. It picked up its first win in the dance since knocking off top-seeded Penn State to reach the Sweet 16 in 1991. This is the squad’s first NCAA Tournament win under head coach Kenny Brooks. The team is now 12-8 in postseason contests under the 12th-year head man.
The first half opened with the teams playing wide open basketball. There were three lead changes and a tie score in the seven minutes with the Dukes grabbing their first lead on a layup by redshirt junior center Lauren Okafor (Hampden, Conn./Hopkins School (Providence)) 5:25 into the stanza. After Gonzaga briefly retook the lead, a layup by Giggetts put Madison up 12-11, a lead it would not relinquish the remainder of the opening period.
Giggetts’ bucket ignited a 17-8 run by JMU that pushed the lead up to 27-19 with 7:02 to play. However, the Zags rebounded by holding Madison to six points the remainder of the way and used an 8-0 run to even the score at 31-31 right before the break. Burkholder answered with a pair of free throws to send the teams to the locker room with the Dukes in front by two.
JMU out-rebounded Gonzaga 25-20 in the first 20 minutes, including eight offensive rebounds. The Bulldogs, however, held the Dukes to four second-chance points while scoring five themselves.
The Dukes will face Texas A&M on Tuesday, March 25 at 9:30 p.m. Eastern time in the Lincoln Region Round of 32. The game will air on the ESPN family of networks.