It was two weeks that TCU Women’s Basketball would rather forget. But that’s not the style of Raegan Pebley, who took time to tell her team that they were going to get better after three straight blowout losses and an eight day break between games. “You just have an energy with this team,” Pebley said. “It was a tough week of practice, but a good, productive week of practice. Collectively we got better; individuals got better and that made the group better because of that.”
TCU responded to the challenge early Sunday afternoon, playing with an energy and intensity that had been missing at times since the calendar turned. Lauren Heard was aggressive on offense, attacking the paint to get to the free throwing line and keeping the defense honest with an effective jumper. She was the first Frog to hit double digits, rolling in ten points to go with three rebounds and three assists. She didn’t do it alone though, as Michelle Berry answered the call with eight and four in the first two quarters and Tavy Diggs added six straight to close the first quarter and put TCU on top by double digits.
One of the highlights of the first half was the play of Caroline Germond, a lockdown defender at guard who had been averaging just four points per game this season. Germond was confident on the offensive end of the floor early Sunday, pouring in seven first half points on 3-6 shooting, hitting 1-2 from behind the arc, and dishing four assists (against one turnover). She finished with just the seven points, but added four more assists to finish with eight and just one more turnover in 29 minutes of play — the kind of performance Pebley has been waiting for from the transfer guard by way of France. “She’s such an assist player,” Pebley said. “Eight assists, just two turnovers — that’s a line you’re used to seeing from Lo (Heard) in year’s past. That’s a role she feels like she can play for this team, but we keep trying to tell her that the assists will get easier the more she can score.” The balance served the Frogs well, as they entered the break leading 36-30, having held Kansas to just 30% shooting from the field and a 3-17 start from behind the arc, with Yummy Morris punctuating the misses with an emphatic block near the end of the second quarter. To see a forward get out to the arc and make a play like that was impressive to say the least.
Kansas came out hot out of the locker room, scoring the first four points of the third quarter, a sign of things to come in a pivotal third frame. The Jayhawks out-scored TCU 24-13 in the third, finishing the quarter on a 10-0 run, that would become 12-0 before Lauren Heard broke the streak with a jumper early in the fourth quarter. Kansas, who lead by as many as seven early, held a comfortable advantage through most of the final ten minutes, but was never able to fully pull away. A lot of the credit for that goes to Yummy Morris, who scored five points in the frame and pulled down four rebounds, not only helping herself on the stat sheet, but opening up the outside for pivotal three pointers from Aahliyah Jackson and Aja Holmes that kept TCU within reach. “One thing we talked about before the game was excuses. How those can dictate the mood for our team,” Morris said. “We want to be confident in each other and trust each other, keep focused, and together dictate the energy on the floor.”
That trust came in clutch late.
With just eight seconds remaining and the Frogs trailing by two, TCU had the ball on the sideline. Pebley gave inbounder Aja Holmes a play with two equal options, one for Heard and one for Diggs. Holmes stayed with Heard for as long as possible, but when the guard was fully denied by the KU defense, found Diggs at the top of the key. The athletic wing took the ball all the way down the line, finding an opening off of the dribble for a great look at a left-handed layup. She converted the shot to tie up the game, and with a defensive stop, TCU forced OT. Morris believed in her teammate the whole way. “I’m excited to see her be herself, play her game, and be totally comfortable on the floor.”
In OT, it looked like the Jayhawks were able to pull the momentum back in their favor, as they quickly went up four points in two possessions. But Jackson wasn’t having it, hitting three pointers on back to back possessions to put the Frogs back on top for the first time since early in the third quarter. The graduate transfer by way of Texas A&M, who missed several practices this week as her MBA classes resumed, had 13 points on the day to go with four rebounds, four assists, and two steals — the second of which may well have saved the game. With just :04 remaining and the Frogs clinging to a two point lead, Jackson was able to force KU guard Holly Kersgieter into a corner and swiped the ball away, drawing a foul and leading to a made free throw that gave TCU just a little space. “Her confidence is built through her work,” Pebley said. “She’s been working on taking better shots on offense — we believe those are good shots for her. Really proud of her that she continued to execute that role we have asked her to play.” Though Kansas would get within one, at 79-78, a massive one-handed rebound by Morris would lead to a foul and two more free throws to give the Frogs a three point win.
Next up for TCU is another tough test, as the hit the road to Austin to face #21 Texas Wednesday. While yet another ranked Big 12 opponent awaits them, Pebley is in no hurry to forget the joy of Sunday’s victory. “We are going to work on loving this win, celebrating this win,” she said. “Winning is fun — they need to know and feel that. We will prepare like we always do, work to get ourselves better, but we will enjoy this for a while, too.”