Texas too much for ECU women in opening-round loss

The fourth-seeded Longhorns topped the Pirates 79-40

Texas guard Rori Harmon drives around East Carolina guard Micah Dennis during the Longhorns’ win Saturday in the first round of the women’s NCAA Tournament in Austin, Texas. (Eric Gay / AP Photo)

AUSTIN, Texas — Shaylee Gonzales scored 20 points and No. 4 Texas rolled to a 79-40 win over No. 13 East Carolina on Saturday night in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on the Longhorns’ home court.

Texas rallied from a poor start to the season to earn the role of host for the first two rounds and made quick work of the Pirates. Taylor Jones had 16 points, eight rebounds and five blocks for Texas (26-9).

The Longhorns raced to a 45-24 lead by halftime with Rori Harmon’s eight assists in the first half driving the Texas offense.

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 advanced to Monday’s second-round matchup with No. 5 Louisville (24-11), which beat No. 12 Drake 83-81 earlier Saturday.

Danae McNeal led East Carolina (23-10) with 13 points in the Pirates’ first NCAA Tournament game since 2007.

Gonzales is the only Longhorn to start every game this season as the Longhorns were battered by a series of injuries. Ranked No. 3 to start the season, Texas quickly tumbled all the way out of the Top 25 as injuries mounted.

Texas looks healthy enough now as the Longhorns moved within one win of the Sweet 16 for the third consecutive year.

The Pirates hope to become tournament regulars after such a long drought for the program. Coach Kim McNeill has a foundation to build on with guard Amiya Joyner, the American Athletic Conference freshman of the year, and junior guard Synia Johnson, who was the most valuable player of the conference tournament.

Texas plays No. 5 Louisville on Monday.