College Station, Texas • Gonzaga was getting the shots it wanted late against James Madison in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Sunday.
The problem was that none of them were falling.
Gonzaga went almost five minutes without scoring as James Madison used a big run to take the lead and go on to a 72-63 win.
“It’s real frustrating because there’s not a lot you can do,” Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves said. “You can make calls, you can do what you’re supposed to do and get people in the right places and get the shots that you want and a lot of them came up short.”
Kirby Burkholder had 28 points and 18 rebounds to lead No. 11 seed James Madison to the victory over sixth-seed Gonzaga.
A 3-pointer by Shaniqua Nilles put Gonzaga up by four points before James Madison (29-5) used a 12-0 run to take a 59-51 lead with 3 ½ minutes left. Burkholder had six points and two steals in that stretch.
“I don’t even really know what happened,” Gonzaga’s Sunny Greinacher said of that stretch. “They were so strong in that period of time. They really got us on our heels.”
The Bulldogs cut the lead to six points with 1:39 left, but Burkholder made a pair of free throws to extend the lead and James Madison held on for the win.
“It’s frustrating when you see it start to slip away, but our kids battled right until the end,” Graves said.
Gonzaga (29-5) was led by Greinacher, who had 17 points and Haiden Palmer added 14.
It was James Madison’s first trip to the tournament since 2011 and the sixth straight for Gonzaga, which had the highest seed in school history.
Burkholder is the Colonial Athletic Association player of the year, who led the league with 106 3-pointers. But she had a tough time shooting on Sunday, going 4 for 17. But she didn’t have any problems with her free throws and 17 of 18.
When she capped James Madison’s big run with a 3-pointer, the band went wild and held up a sign reading “You got Kirby’d,” their signature chant when she hits a 3.
“She’s a great player,” Palmer said. “Great players make it happen.”
Toia Giggetts added 15 points and Precious Hall had 11 points for James Madison.
“They made shots,” Graves said. “We didn’t turn them over as much as we would have wanted. We just didn’t get them rattled enough.”
Gonzaga used a 6-0 run to take a 48-44 lead with about nine minutes left. That run was started by a 3-point play by Palmer where she made an off-balanced shot before crashing to the court.
Burkholder pushed James Madison’s lead to five points with three free throws to start the second half before Gonzaga scored five straight points to tie it at 36-all with about 18 minutes left.
Greinacher’s second 3-point play of the half put Gonzaga up 39-38 — its first lead since early in the first half — with just under 15 minutes remaining.
James Madison trailed by 3 early in the first half before using a 13-4 run to take a 17-11 lead about 12 minutes before halftime. James Madison got points from five different players during that stretch and Gonzaga missed four 3-pointers as they fell behind.
Lindsay Sherbert finally ended Gonzaga’s 3-point drought when she made one a few seconds later before the team added a free throw to cut the lead to 2 points.
James Madison started another run after that, outscoring Gonzaga 10-4 over the next 4 1/2 minutes to extend the lead to 27-19.
The Dukes didn’t have a turnover until a shot clock violation with 4:33 remaining in the first half. The next time they had the ball they missed three shots but grabbed the rebound after each miss before Lauren Okafor finally finished the possession with a layup that made it 31-23.
Gonzaga used an 8-2 run, with six points from Palmer, to close out the first half and cut the lead to 33-31 at halftime.