Coming into the season opener against Incarnate Word, Raegan Pebley knew that this version of TCU Women’s Basketball was going to have to find a way to manufacture scoring, having lost so many skilled, veteran offensive players from a season ago. But she was also confident in her team’s identity — especially on the defensive end. “I think it’s a new identity as far as where we get our scoring from, how that happens. Defensively, we want to be that same team, gritty, changing our defense up, and working really hard to take away what our opponents are good at.” The players met the challenge early, holding IW to just four makes in their first 10 attempts before a late flurry of makes, including a pair of threes, led to an 10-0 run to close the first frame — a run that was broken by a Lauren Heard pull up as time expired.
TCU struggled on the offensive end; the opportunities were certainly there, with Pebley and co scheming up some wide open looks and opportunities inside the paint. But converting was the issue, as the Frogs shot just 31% in the first frame. Thankfully, two of the returning stars, Lauren Heard and Yummy Morris, lived up to their billing, combing to score 13 of the 17 first quarter points. They would dominate throughout the game; as hard as the Cardinals fought, they had no answer for the inside duo of Heard and Morris, who combined for 48 points on the day.
It was a tight game at the half, with just three points separating the two teams. The Frogs shot the ball better in the second frame, at 50%, but the defense faltered, allowing IW to hang around. But they ratcheted things up in the second half, allowing just ten attempts in the third quarter and only seven in the fourth, while forcing an impressive 18 turnovers and nearly doubling the rebounding 19-11. TCU outscored Incarnate Word 46-24 over the final two quarters, notching 23 in each, with Morris carrying the scoring load with 12 points on a perfect 6-6 shooting.
While Heard and Morris put on an absolute show on offense, it was the defense that stood out as far as ensuring that this program has a chance to be better than their predicted ninth place finish. Heard and Caroline Germond, a juco transfer and one of the best defensive point guards in the country, made a formidable duo up top, harassing Cardinal ball handlers and helping force 29 turnovers — change of possessions that led to 33 total TCU points. Pebley lovingly referred to Germond as a “gnat” and a “pest” postgame, and it’s obvious that the duo of Germond and Heard will be a problem for opponents this season. Heard and Caro, as they call her, have developed a quick and easy chemistry despite the limited practices, which Heard credits to Germond’s hard work, calling her a “feisty defender who likes to get after it. She’s such a good on-ball defender, it’s nice to have that relationship and chemistry.”
After talking about how TCU’s offense would need to be predicated by the defense yesterday, Pebley remarked post game about how that came to fruition against Incarnate Word. “I thought our first and second line was really solid; the third and fourth layer has to get better. [The backcourt] can spark lots of energy on defense, we just have to see those four and fives feed off of them.”
Though the fours and fives need to continue to work on their defensive rotations, there were few complaints about Morris’ big day. Something that Pebley wasn’t the least bit surprised to see, despite the difficulties of the last few months. “It wasn’t [surprising]. Her conditioning is going to improve, she’ll get better at understanding a few things, the intricacies of the position. We saw her continue to get better at end of last year, she’s had a great offseason despite everything and has great players pushing her every day at practice.” For Morris, it was just about doing what her team needed her to do. “As always you have to be there for the team, do the small things. But most of all, I couldn’t do anything without my team.”
It was a total team effort Saturday, with eight different Frogs scoring in total. In addition to Morris and Heard, Germond (nine points, three assists, and six steals) and Tavy Diggs (nine points, eight rebounds, four assists) had significant impacts on the game and in the stat book. Aliyah Jackson made her presence felt in her first game since transfering from Texas A&M, scoring seven points, hauling in three rebounds, dishing three assists, and recording three steals, living up to her billing as an elite defensive player and a veteran presence that can help elevate the program once again.
In the big picture, TCU gets off to a 1-0 start. But this is a season that will be even less about looking ahead than normal. And ultimately, as Pebley has preached since the decision to play was first made, this season is about appreciating every opportunity to step on the court. “I feel like it’s awesome to be able to go back on the floor, put on uniforms, have officials, a scoreboard, and play in a game that matters. There’s a locker room full of people, a training room of staff, offices in the Schollmaier filled with employees, all working so hard for a very long time to get this season going. These conversations, to lead to today, have been happening since May. That we were able to have this day is a total credit to all that work.”
TCU Women’s Basketball will next get to work on Saturday when they host Central Arkansas, with tip-off set for 1:00pm.