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Defending champion Texas A&M beats Albany 69-47

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COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP)

As Albany coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson looked at the long faces after the Great Danes lost to Texas A&M 69-47 in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday, she implored them to think about all they accomplished this season.

''The first thing I said to them was: `Get your heads up; you guys are winners, no matter what,''' Abrahamson-Henderson said. ''We're going to go back and see some banners in our gym for the first time ever, in school history.''

It was the first NCAA appearance for No. 14 seed Albany, which got an automatic bid by winning the America East tournament.

''Even though we lost this game, we had a great season,'' Albany's Ebone Henry said. ''We just proved everyone wrong. No one expected us to be here, let alone be in the game with a team like Texas A&M. I'm just proud of our team for just fighting and believing in ourselves.''

Tyra White returned from an injury to score 18 points with seven rebounds to lead the defending national champion Aggies.

She got going early, scoring 12 points in the first half, and added four points and a steal in a decisive second-half spurt.

The Great Danes had scored six straight points to tie it early in the second half before A&M used a 17-4 run to take a 49-36 lead with about 13 minutes remaining.

Albany had three turnovers and missed three layups in that span. Alexia Standish had two 3-pointers and Sydney Carter hit one during A&M's spurt.

''The second half they made adjustments,'' Albany's Adrienne Jones said. ''They're a Big 12 team, so I guess they figured it out.''

The third-seeded Aggies (23-10) were making their school-record seventh straight tournament appearance and hosting games for the first time since 1994.

The Great Danes, who moved to Division I in 1999, won 10 straight games to get into the tournament and hadn't lost since Jan. 28.

Texas A&M coach Gary Blair was impressed with Albany's performance.

''They played with the confidence of their head coach,'' Blair said of Abrahamson-Henderson, the America East coach of the year, who he once recruited. ''She's done an outstanding job with that team.''

Henry had 14 points and nine rebounds and Julie Forster added eight points and 12 rebounds for Albany (23-10), which won 20 games for the first time since jumping to Division I.

The Great Danes' 24 turnovers were just one off a season high, and the Aggies turned those miscues into 29 points. That scoring helped offset Albany's dominance of the boards, where it outrebounded A&M 48-33.

''Our point guards were really struggling,'' Abrahamson-Henderson said. ''We have a ton of offensive sets, and we couldn't get into them.''

Albany started 6-foot-8 freshman Megan Craig for just the second time this season in an attempt to deal with Texas A&M's size. She finished with nine points, seven rebounds and a season-high three blocks.

The Great Danes didn't look like tournament rookies, leading early and staying with the Aggies for the entire first half. Texas A&M led 30-26 at the break.

Henry said the crowd wasn't intimidating to them because they had experienced tough crowds a lot this season.

''The nonconference games we did have this year, playing in places at Iowa, Toledo, places like that (prepared us),'' she said. ''We saw fans like this, and we've played in environments like this, so it really didn't bother us.''

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