AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Longhorns women’s basketball team left no doubt who was the better team Saturday night at Moody Center, pounding East Carolina 79-40 in the first round of the NCAA basketball tournament.
Texas, seeded No. 4 in the second Seattle Regional, held the 13th-seeded Pirates to single-digit scoring in three of the four quarters and ripped a highly-ranked Pirates defense to shreds. East Carolina came into the game allowing 56 points per game, No. 22 in the country, and forcing 24.16 turnovers per game, No. 3 in the country. The Pirates also held opponents to 37.2% shooting from the field this season, but they simply couldn’t handle the Longhorns.
Texas committed 16 turnovers in the game and shot 54% for the game while playing tough defense of their own. The Longhorns held the Pirates to 18% shooting and 0-for-5 from 3-point range. East Carolina had five assists on 10 field goals while Texas had 20 assists on 27 field goals. The Pirates scored as many points from the foul line as they did from the field, making 20 of 26 free throws.
Shaylee Gonzales led the way for Texas with 20 points on 8-for-13 shooting with six rebounds. She eclipsed 2,000 career points between this season at Texas and three previous years at Brigham Young University. Rori Harmon dished out 12 assists and chipped in six points while DeYona Gaston notched a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Texas shot 50% from 3-point range, sinking 5 of 10 attempts.
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“We played really well tonight,” Longhorns head coach Vic Schaefer said. “Rori ran our team like a point guard is supposed to, had good transition and we were interested defensively. That was big for me.”
Longhorns forward Taylor Jones eclipsed 1,000 career points in her collegiate career between Texas and Oregon State with a bucket in the fourth quarter. She finished the game with 16 points, eight rebounds and six blocked shots. Texas scored 40 points in the paint to East Carolina’s 16.
The Longhorns trailed just 17 seconds in the game after an East Carolina bucket with 7:39 left in the first quarter. Khadija Faye scored to put Texas up 5-4 at the 7:39 mark of the first quarter, and the Longhorns led the rest of the way. Faye scored eight of the Longhorns’ first 10 points.
Texas outrebounded East Carolina 44-30, including 29-11 on the defensive glass. Oddly enough, the Pirates had more offensive rebounds than Texas at 19-15. Texas scored 21 points off 17 East Carolina turnovers and the Pirates converted 17 Texas turnovers to just eight points. The Longhorns’ bench outscored East Carolina’s 26-7.
Texas senior guard Sonya Morris had her first action since late February coming off a leg injury. She played 13 minutes and scored four points with two rebounds.
East Carolina was the first non-No. 1 seed to win the American Athletic Conference tournament in order to get an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The Pirates finished third in the regular season and won 23 games, the most for the program since 2010. East Carolina head coach Kim McNeill said the loss is going to “make these kids hungrier.”
“We’ve learned what it takes in order to be successful at this level,” she said. “This won’t be the last time you see East Carolina in the NCAA tournament, I promise you that.”
The Longhorns will play fifth-seeded Louisville in the second round at 6 p.m. Monday at Moody Center. The teams played in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas on Nov. 20 with Louisville coming away with a 71-63 win. Harmon was out with a foot injury at the time, and of course, both teams are completely different now than they were before Thanksgiving 2022.