An 11:00am Wednesday tip is not a normal basketball game time, but the Horned Frogs made the most of the chance to get back on the court after seeing their game at Mizzou cancelled, beating Lamar University 79-53. Coming off of a tough loss at home in the Big 12 Conference opener against Iowa State, the Frogs were looking for a bounce-back performance. They got one, and it started with the basics, according to Yummy Morris. “We focused on executing the game plan, trying to get boards and do what our team needs. We got in the gym and we worked hard, getting there before practice and staying after. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves, we still have a chip on our shoulder from last year.”
The Frogs were led by Lauren Heard early, who propelled TCU to a four point lead after one, scoring eight of her team’s first 15 points. Yummy Morris came on strong in the second, going 4-6 in the quarter for eight points and adding a pair of rebounds. It was the kind of performance that Raegan Pebley knows that he young forward has in her, but wants to see more of. “She’s capable of putting these numbers of consistently. As she matures, works on the other 21 hours of the day, and the mindset, we will see that maturity happen for Yum.”
But Lamar refused to go away, using the three ball to keep things close — including 4-8 in quarter two that contained a pair from well beyond the arc. They went into the half trailing by just three, and with plenty of confidence — earned confidence from regularly giving Power Five teams all they could handle despite not coming up with wins.
But a very different team came out of the locker room for the second half Wednesday, as the Frogs turned up the intensity on both ends of the floor, even without their star player controlling the offense. Well, maybe it wasn’t a different team — just a more efficient one. “I didn’t feel like we were a totally different team in the second half, we made some adjustments,” Pebley said. “We started better in the first half than we had in the last few games, but they executed adjustments well on the defensive end and finished at the rim stronger.” The Frogs, after allowing five three point field goals in the first half, surrendered just three in the second, and that was on 12 attempts. They outrebounded the Cardinals 22-16 across the final 20 minutes and held Lamar to just eight points, on 2-18 shooting, in the fourth quarter. Rebounding was a focus for a team that Pebley said needed to show more toughness, something that her and her staff emphasized over the last week of practices. “Our focus was on ourselves, building chemistry on and off the floor, building a layer of toughness. These women have incredible stories, they all have depth to their toughness. We have to continue to find ways to pull it out and help them to use it on the floor.”
While Lauren Heard struggled for the field in the second half, taking just two shots and not hitting one until the fourth frame, the rest of the TCU stepped up in a big way. Kayla Mokwuah had a career-high seven points, all in the second half, while Aahliyah Jackson and Morris scored nine each in the final 20 minutes. Plenty of players had significant impacts without putting up big numbers; Michelle Berry, of whom broadcasters said “just adds something, energy, toughness, whatever you want to call it”, had ten rebounds, and Tavy Diggs added four points, seven rebounds, and four assists in a well-rounded effort. Pebley noted that Heard might have been quiet when it came to scoring, but she “handled herself really well with that kind of pressure, she got us into a really good flow offensively, still found opportunities to attack lanes. Read the defense really well while doing her job as a point guard organizing us.”
It was really the defense that got it done, holding the Cardinals to 26% shooting on the game and out-rebounding them by 15 across four quarters, while the offense used its significant size advantage to dominate the paint, almost out-scoring Lamar there alone, with 52 points on the day. TCU scored eight of its 18 second quarter points off turnovers that were forced by the defense. It was also a great confidence boosting day for Mokwuah and transfer Patricia Morris, who scored six points and had four rebounds in limited minutes and was especially impactful on the defensive end. They are two players Pebley really wants to see more involved. “Kayla and Patricia, as they start to find their confidence and flow [are going to have a big impact]. We as coaches are trying to figure out how we can best use them and coach them.”
TCU will be back on the court next Sunday, Dec. 13, hosting Middle Tennessee in another non-conference matchup. Tip off between the Horned Frogs and the Lady Raiders is set for 1 p.m. at Schollmaier Arena.