After such limited practice time in the preseason, it was going to take some time for the Horned Frogs to gel. In their second game, Raegan Pebley’s squad took a big step forward in that direction — especially on the defensive end — in defeating Central Arkansas 65-48 on their home floor.
Opening the game with a harassing 3-2 to 2-3 full court press, the Frogs forced the Sugar Bears into nine turnovers and just 12 points on 38% shooting from the floor in the first quarter. Meanwhile, TCU rode the hot shooting of Lauren Heard (6 first quarter points) to jump out to a 20-12 lead after one.
But the Sugar Bears got hot in the second frame, opening the period with an 9-0 run while the Frogs struggled to get anything going on the offensive end — missing their first 10 shots and going scoreless through six minutes of play to finish the half trailing 31-26.
At the break, Pebley told her team that they played “undisciplined in that first half. That was a big message in second half, we had lost momentum because we lost discipline in doing our jobs, we needed extreme accountability.” They listened, outscoring the Sugar Bears 24-10 in the frame behind Aahliyah Jackson’s nine and Michelle Berry’s seven in the frame. Jackson, who sees herself as a defensive spark in his first year as a graduate transfer from Texas A&M, said Pebley’s halftime message of “control what we can control” was effective. “We came out slow, got complacent coming in third quarter. We needed to pick it up, be the aggressors, to come out on top.” That they were, forcing nine turnovers by Central Arkansas in the third period, while dishing out eight TCU assists offensively, giving the Frogs a 50-41 lead heading into the fourth and final period. The Frogs didn’t take their foot off the gas in the final frame, playing the same harassing defense that got them the lead throughout, and holding the Sugar Bears to just seven points on 20% shooting in the final frame. Though UCA continued to play hard, they never truly threatened, defeated after that storm of a third frame.
The team improved in game two, especially in the press, here Pebley was impressed by their ability to adjust on the fly. “I thought we did a nice job with our press, making adjustments within game. A sign of the team’s potential in the maturity area is how they handle in-game adjustments. The best teams force other teams to adjust and are prepared to adjust as well.” But there are still areas that need to be addressed, especially with #15 Iowa State coming into town next week. “Definitely improvement, but didn’t get there the whole way. We need to mature; the team is learning each other, finding an identity,” Pebley said. “But I’m really confident in what this group can do as they spend more and more time together on the court.”
Despite the limited time, it was still a cohesive performance. Heard led all scorers with 17 points and added seven assists, while Jackson went for 13 points. Yummy Morris had a quieter day on offense but had nine rebounds a block and a steal, and Tavy Diggs continued her solid play to start the year with seven points, six rebounds, and three assists. She’s a player Pebley thinks can be great. “Tavy is going to keep growing, finding a strong, important role in this program as she continues to buy in defensively.”
The next test will be the biggest; TCU opens the Big 12 Women’s Basketball season when they host the Cyclones Wednesday night. “Whether you have a ranking or not we know that everybody in the Big 12 is good,” Pebley said. “We have to be locked in and focused on every possession. A lot of people will be watching since it’s the first Big 12 game of the season.”