AUSTIN, Texas (WNCT) — The East Carolina women’s basketball team certainly showed it belonged in the NCAA Tournament during the first quarter of Saturday’s game with host Texas.
ESPN highlights from ECU-Texas game
However, the game has four quarters and Texas certainly showed why it belonged in the tournament during the decisive second quarter. The Longhorns pulled away down the stretch in the first half and never looked back in a 79-40 win over the Pirates in their first-round game at the Moody Center in Austin, Texas.
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“We just played really well tonight,” Texas coach Vic Schaefer said. “They ran into a Texas team I was proud of. … Rori ran our team like a point guard is supposed to. She found the right people at the right time.”
The loss ended a dramatic season for the No. 13-seeded Pirates (23-10), who were picked to finish last by the AAC coaches in the preseason poll. ECU proved the critics wrong by finishing third in the AAC during the regular season and beating Houston in the conference title game. That win earned the team just its third NCAA Tournament appearance and the first since 2007.
Texas, the No. 4 seed in the Seattle Regional, improved to 26-9, 15-2 at home. Texas faces No. 5 seed Louisville, which won 83-81 over Drake, on Monday.
Amiya Joyner’s layup with 7:56 left in the first quarter gave the Pirates a 4-3 lead after a tough start by both teams. Two straight layups by Texas’ Khadija Faye gave Texas a 7-4 advantage. The Longhorns held the lead the rest of the way.
Danae McNeil made two free throws to cut the margin to 7-6 with 6:23 left in the quarter. Another basket by Joyner, a Farmville Central High School graduate, made it 9-6 with 5:32 left in the quarter.
After that, the Pirates got as close as 16-13 after a basket by Micah Dennis with 2:39 left in the quarter.
The Longhorns’ defense and poor shooting by the Pirates led to the game getting out of hand after that. The Pirates were held to nine points in the second and third quarters, trailing 45-24 at the half and 66-33 after three quarters.
Shayee Gonzales, a graduate transfer from BYU and last season’s West Coast Conference player of the year, made three consecutive baskets in the opening minutes of the third quarter that pushed her over 2,000 points for her career. Texas led by 33 to start the fourth.
Texas led by as many as 40 points late in the fourth quarter.
McNeal finished with 13 points while Joyner had 10 points and eight rebounds to lead the Pirates
“We’re going to make this a place that is familiar to us. We’ve learned what it takes to be successful at this level. It’s made us hungrier,” ECU coach Kim McNeill said. “I really hope people don’t remember us on how we finished, this one game.”
The Pirates shot a season-low 17.9% from the floor (10-for-56) while Texas hit 54% of its shots, including five 3-pointers. ECU was 0-for-5 from 3-point range and made 17 turnovers against a tough Texas defense.
Shayee Gonzales led all scorers with 20 points along with six rebounds and three steals. Three other players (Taylor Jones, 16 points, DeYona Gaston, 11 and Shay Holle 10 reached double figures) Gaston also had 10 rebounds while Jones had six blocks.