Sonya Morris returns, No. 4-seed Texas stifles No. 13-seed East Carolina in 79-40 opening round victory

Hunter Dworaczyk, Sports Desk Editor

When graduate guard Sonya Morris checked into the game for Texas women’s basketball late in the first quarter, the Moody Center showered her in applause and a standing ovation.

Morris had been missing from action for over a month with a quad injury since last playing against Kansas on Feb. 4. 

“I’m just so very happy for her,” sophomore guard Rori Harmon said. “Being out for so long is really sad, she plays a really big part of our team on and off of the court. I’m glad she got her round of applause.”

Morris’ return to the court highlighted what was a lopsided 79-40 victory for No. 4-seed Texas over No. 13-seed East Carolina in the opening round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday night.

Though the guard played a limited role in the ballgame, logging just 14 minutes, she managed to hit a momentum-building three point shot early in the second. 

While Morris’ return made for a special moment, she also brings another scoring option for Texas as it continues its tournament run. 

“It’s great to have another guard we can play,” head coach Vic Schaefer said.

Texas’ 39-point differential can largely be credited towards its clinical shutdown on the defensive side of the ball. On the very first possession of the game, the Longhorns prevented East Carolina from getting a good shot and forced a turnover via a shot clock violation. 

That possession foreshadowed what was to come for East Carolina against the Horns. Texas administered a tough presence at the rim and along the perimeter from the first possession to the last, making it difficult for the overmatched East Carolina offense to get quality looks.

The Longhorns held the opposition to a 17.9 % field goal percentage on the night, with the Pirates making just ten field goals throughout the game. 

Texas recorded twelve blocks in the win, a mark that is a program best for the Longhorns in the NCAA postseason tournament.

Junior forward Taylor Jones was responsible for half of Texas’ blocks in the first round. Grabbing eight rebounds, Jones helped Texas dominate the paint on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.

“It was really physical,” Jones said. “It’s just the post life. We get beat up down there.”

Despite Texas holding an insurmountable lead for most of the second half, the defensive pressure only increased with time. In each of the last three quarters, East Carolina was held to a single-digit point total.

All of East Carolina’s thirteen field goal attempts in the fourth quarter were missed or blocked.

“It didn’t matter who we had on the floor,” Schaefer said. “If they were getting time, they knew I wanted them to play really hard on that end.”

Texas will advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament with the victory, taking on No. 5-seed Louisville on Monday. The Cardinals, who played in the Moody Center right before Saturday’s Texas-ECU game, are coming off of a dramatic 83-81 victory over No. 12-seed Drake.