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Top seed Texas uses dominant defense to cruise past Gonzaga and into Elite Eight with 69-47 win

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Vic Schaefer took a moment in the aftermath of one his team’s more dominant performances this season to encapsulate what Texas has accomplished.

Overlooked among the other No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament, the Longhorns looked every bit the part of a title contender this March Madness overwhelming Gonzaga 69-47 on Friday night in the Sweet 16.

“It’s amazing what this group has accomplished. They’re remarkable young ladies. Unbelievable kids. They work their guts out every day. They pay the price to be where they are right now,” Schaefer said. “I mean, these young ladies are going to be so good in the real world when they’re done playing basketball. But I don’t want their basketball to be done, because I love coaching them. Man, I had a ball tonight. Watching those kids play like that, are you kidding me?”

Aaliyah Moore had 16 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, Shaylee Gonzales added 15 points, and the top-seeded Longhorns used a smothering defense to roll past fourth-seeded Gonzaga in the Portland 4 Regional semifinal.

Texas (33-4) won for the 15th time in 16 games and never made it easy for the Bulldogs, stymieing Gonzaga’s high-scoring offense and flustering them into an awful night at the offensive end.

The size and physicality of Texas were too much for Gonzaga to handle and the Longhorns’ defense held the Zags to just three made field goals and forced nine turnovers in a dominant first half.

Shay Holle’s corner 3-pointer in the closing seconds of the half gave the Longhorns a 37-18 halftime lead and Texas was on its way to its first Elite Eight appearance since the 2021-22 season.

“We’ll be the underdogs, people can underestimate us. We know the work we put in every day. We’re the ones going to battle. No one else is in our practices, film sessions, anything that we do,” Moore said. “I think because we know that we have the foundation. It’s up to us to prove it every night. I think we’re doing that right now.”

No. 3 seed North Carolina State, which rolled past second-seeded Stanford, awaits Texas on Sunday in the regional final. Texas has not reached the Final Four since 2003.

Holle added 12 points and Texas dominated despite a quiet night from Big 12 player of the year Madison Booker. Booker was slowed by foul trouble in the first half and finished with six points and eight rebounds in 25 minutes.

Yvonne Ejim led Gonzaga (32-4) with 14 points, but picked up her first foul 30 seconds into the game and struggled with foul trouble before eventually fouling out. Brynna Maxwell added 13 points, but the winningest season in school history finished with a whimper.

“Today wasn’t our best day. It wasn’t an indicator of the season that we had,” Gonzaga coach Lisa Fortier said.

The Bulldogs shot just 26.5% and the 47 points were the fewest since last year’s NCAA Tournament first-round loss to Mississippi when the Zags managed just 48 points. Gonzaga entered the game as the best 3-point shooting team in the country at 40.1%, but went 4 of 22 from beyond the 3-point line with most of their looks challenged by the size of the Texas lineup. Gonzaga’s perimeter combo of Kayleigh and Kaylynne Truong were a combined 3 of 18 shooting and 1 of 12 on 3s.

Gonzaga was seeking its second Elite Eight appearance in school history and first since 2011. Gonzaga made one spurt in the third quarter, cutting a 21-point lead to 12, but Gonzales’ third 3-pointer pushed the lead back to 15 and it was back to 21 by the end of the quarter.

“There’s a lot of teams we played this year that have thrown many defenses at us. ... We took ourselves out of it,” Kaylynne Truong said. “Our shooting, we kind of rely on that. It just didn’t go our way today.”

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