While we are all bemoaning close loss after close loss by TCU Basketball, there is another team playing in the same gym that has gotten over the hump and turned close losses into program-defining wins. Reagan Pebley’s TCU Horned Frogs squad is coming off the biggest week in recent memory, upsetting the #7 Texas Longhorns at home and the #15 West Virginia Mountaineers in Morgantown in back-to-back games.
In her fourth year helming the program, Pebley has her squad on the cusp of an NCAA Tourney berth, as they stand 12-5 overall and 3-3 in Big 12 play. Pebley has recruited well since her arrival in Fort Worth, securing transfers Toree Smith and Amy Okonkwo and signing four star Jordan Moore and five star Amber Ramirez, among other talents. But it took time for all those pieces to mesh, and there was plenty of development needed as well. It seems it’s all coming together in 2018 though, and as the team continues to mesh and improve, the victories are pouring in.
TCU earned wins over Arizona and Alabama in the preseason, before falling in a tough contest to Texas A&M. They dropped their first three Big 12 contests, by single digits to WVU and Kansas before a 13 point defeat at the hands of the Sooners in Norman. But a 21 point victory over Texas Tech got them back on track, and gave them the belief to knock off ranked teams in back to back games.
Against Texas, it was a blistering performance from behind the arc that helped get the job done. The Frogs, who are shooting 37.6% from behind the arc on the season, hit on nine of their 11 attempts against the Horns. Torre Thompson and Amy Okonkwo led the charge for TCU, dropping 31 points between them. Thompson put the Frogs back on top with less than a minute remaining on a three, and sophomore Kianna Ray provided the winning baskets from the free throw line when she connected on a pair of free throws with time ticking down for two of her 17 total points.
The road win over West Virginia was a different story, though, as the Frogs had to overcome a huge second half deficit. Against Texas, TCU actually led at the half, and the two teams were nose to nose over the final two quarters. But WVU led by 16 at the half and stretched the lead to as much as 18 in the third quarter, and took an 11 point advantage into the final frame. But the Frogs used some hot-shooting to cut the lead, and outscored the Eers 21-10 in the fourth quarter to force OT. Though the extra period was sloppy, a couple of clutch baskets and a great effort on the boards set up TCU for a game winning shot. After Torree Thompson missed a layup with less than ten seconds remaining, the Frogs forced a tie-up and had the possession arrow. Okonkwo drained a three and the defense held for the finals ticks to give TCU a two point win.
She tied in the fourth, and she won it in OT ... check out Amy Okonkwo's stamp on one of the biggest weeks in TCU's recent history! Frogs win consecutive games over ranked teams for first time since 2004! #GoFrogs pic.twitter.com/lYyOWhvrkJ— TCU Women’s Basketball (@TCUWbasketball) January 14, 2018
TCU has four players averaging double digit scoring in Moore, Okonkwo, Thompson, and Amber Ramirez - and a fifth, Kianna Ray pours in nine a game. They are routinely out-rebounding opponents, shoot a high percentage from the field, and block a ton of shots. They are a balanced and complete team, that is starting to figure things out - and at just the right time.
The Frogs will continue their revenge tour next weekend, looking to avenge a loss to Kansas in Lawrence by stringing together a fourth straight win. The game is in Fort Worth, tipping off at 2:00pm Saturday. If you haven’t made it out to a game yet, that would be a great place to start. It’s been a great week for Pebley’s squad, but as she said after beating Texas “I don’t really know how you can define a signature victory in the moment. I think you have to see what happens after it.”