AUSTIN, Texas — Aaliyah Moore scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and Texas overcame a gritty effort from Fairfield to open the NCAA Tournament with a 70-52 win Friday night on the Longhorns' home court.
Texas, a No. 2 seed, smothered No. 15-seed Fairfield early, holding the Stags under 10 points in each of the first two quarters as the Longhorns built a 39-18 lead by halftime and looked to be on cruise control.
Then they had to fight off a scrappy, experienced Fairfield lineup that refused to wilt. The Stags cut the Texas lead to 56-46 early in the fourth quarter. The Longhorns were looking tired and sloppy before Aliyah Matharu hit a much-needed 3-pointer. She then fed Moore for a layup over two defenders that created a 15-point cushion that Texas could manage the rest of the way.
Moore's two free throws with 3:48 left pushed the Texas lead to 20 and put the game finally out of reach. Moore went 10 of 10 from the free-throw line.
Rori Harmon, the Big 12 freshman of the year, scored 10 points and had 11 assists for Texas (27-6). The Longhorns advance to Sunday's second round against No. 7 seed Utah (21-11), which beat No. 10 Arkansas 92-69 earlier Friday.
Lou Lopez Senechal of France scored 17 points for Fairfield (25-7). But the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference player of the year had to leave the game with 27 seconds remaining in the first quarter after getting a cut on her left cheek while battling for a rebound.
Texas led 12-8 when Lopez-Senechal was cut, and the Longhorns went on a 25-9 tear after she left while holding a towel to her face. She returned in the third quarter and made a 3-pointer on the first shot of the second half to lead the rally that kept the Stags in sight of a potential upset until late.
Fairfield: The Stags' first game in the NCAA Tournament since 2001 was also the final one for coach Joe Frager. He announced before the season he's retiring due to health concerns. Frager finishes with a 265-191 record in 15 seasons with the Stags. He also won a Division II national championship at Southern Connecticut in 2007 before taking over at Fairfield.
Texas: The Longhorns get one more game in their 45-year-old home arena, the Frank Erwin Center. Texas is shuttering the building after this season to move into a new arena.
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