m9861 BC-BKW-NCAA-Minnesota-T 2ndLd-Writethru 03-24 0570
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Texas made an emphatic statement in its first game back in the NCAA tournament since 2005.
Brittainy Raven scored 19 points and the eighth-seeded Longhorns (22-12) routed No. 9 seed Minnesota 72-55 on Sunday.
"I just get into a rhythm and it’s easy for me to hit shots," Raven said. "I get a feel out there on the court, and my teammates do a good job of getting me the ball."
Erneisha Bailey added 16 for Texas, which will play top-ranked Connecticut in the second round Tuesday. The Huskies beat Cornell 87-41 earlier Sunday.
Emily Fox led Minnesota with 23 points, six above her season average. Leslie Knight added 12 for the Gophers, who finished the season 20-12.
The Golden Gophers trailed 49-37 with 10:32 remaining after a 12-5 run, but that was as close as they would get.
Raven hit a 3-pointer on the other end and Texas stretched the lead to 58-41 on a pair of free throws from Earnesia Williams with 8 minutes left. It was a 25-point lead with just over 5 minutes left, and Texas cruised from there.
The Longhorns ran out early to a 17-5 lead, forcing eight Minnesota turnovers and turning several into transition buckets. Bailey hit her first three shots, while the entire Gopher team was shooting 2-for-11 from the field.
"By us starting out the way we started, it was just contagious," Bailey said. "Everyone kind of just locked down, really."
Minnesota went almost 4 minutes without a field goal, but used foul shooting to stay in the game, and trailed just 21-18 after Ashley Ellis-Milan hit two free throws with 5:03 left in the first half.
But the Longhorns closed the half on an 11-0 run and went into intermission leading 32-18.
"We dug ourselves a little bit of a hole in the first half," Fox said. "We got a little momentum, we just couldn’t pull it together."
The Gophers shot 31 percent from the field, but just 18 percent before halftime. Texas, however, committed 10 first-half fouls, and Minnesota converted 8-of-12 free throws.
The loss was Minnesota’s fourth in six games, and follows its 56-51 defeat by Michigan State in the first round of the Big Ten tournament. The Gophers, who lost 11 players after the 2006 season, just six by graduation, made it to the tournament after a one-year absence.
Texas has won six of its last seven, the lone loss coming to Oklahoma State in the semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament. The Big 12 is 8-0 so far in the NCAA tournament.
"I think top to bottom, it’s the strongest conference in the country," said Texas coach Gail Goestenkors.