I would not want to line up against a backcourt of Aahliyah Jackson and Caroline Germond. The two transfers guards have to be some of the most annoying defenders in the Big 12, and Saturday they proved why in sparking a double-digit comeback for the Horned Frogs against Texas Tech. While they are a pain for opponents, they’re a joy for the Horned Frogs, something that senior guard Lauren Heard recognized post game. “It’s so fun. Me and Caro [Germond] and Aaliyah [Jackson], we can play off of each other. We celebrate each other every day. Having two workhorse like them is really encouraging for all of us.” The dynamic defensive duo seemed especially fired up Saturday, something that Raegan Pebley said has been a long time coming. “It’s just been a process,” Pebley said. “These are new players into our program — our language that we utilize, principles, they’re all new to them. Basketball is a game of habits — those habits don't just happen in one day. There’s been a lot of growth.”
As has been the case often this season, TCU Women’s Basketball started slowly on offense, missing their first four shots and their first ten three pointers as they managed just nne points in the first quarter. Fortunately for the Frogs, Texas Tech wasn’t much better, shooting just 27% from the field and go 0-7 from behind the arc to take a one point lead after one. Heard especially struggled, going just 1-7 in the first frame, with most of her misses well off the mark. But she’s not one to back down from a challenge or lose her confidence, and her coaches and teammates certainly don’t lose confidence in her. “She’s an incredibly hard worker, and we all know the one thing you can rely on is hard work,” Pebley said. Heard added “I had some misses early, but my coaches and teammates told me that I am not just a shooter — there are a lot of other ways I can contribute. I didn’t allow that to take me out of the game, and down the stretch, I just took what the defense gave me.”
The second quarter looked like it was going to be all Texas Tech, as they stretched their lead to as many as 13 while the Frogs managed just two points in the first four minutes. But a timely timeout by Pebley helped spark a 9-0 Horned Frogs’ run, and the defense did the rest, pushing the Lady Raiders into an 0-8 stretch to close the half.
Trailing 24-20 heading into the third quarter, the Frogs finally got some help from the three ball, with Michelle Berry connecting on a pair and Lauren Heard adding a critical three point play that tied the game for the first time. Her second three point play would put them on top for the first time, 40-39, with 8:35 remaining in the game. Berry had a huge day for the Horned Frogs Saturday, hitting the critical treys in the second half on her way to a 14 point, 13 rebound effort. “Nobody gets in the gym more than Michelle Berry, honestly,” Pebley said. “She gets shot after shot up, so I am really confident in her.”
After scoring just 20 points in the first 20 minutes, the Frogs dropped 27 in the final 10, ending the ugliness of the first three frames. “I looked over at [assistant coach] Abi Olajuwon at one point, and the score was 29-24 — and the third quarter was almost over. I told her ‘this is not what basketball is supposed to look like,’” Pebley said with a laugh. It looked a lot more fun in the final frame, as TCU got hot behind Heard and Holmes, who combined for 20 points on 5-7 shooting, including a 2-2 effort from behind the arc for true freshman Holmes. “It doesn’t matter what age you are when you've bought into a culture and bought into an identity,” Heard said of Holmes. “She’s always looking for where she can help and be a good teammate.”
While Heard finished with a huge day for TCU (23/11/6, 7-7 from the free throw line), two of the Lady Raider’s most critical offensive pieces were held at bay for most of the game, and contained when they needed to be. Lexi Gordon, who came into Saturday’s contest averaging 23 points per game against TCU, and Vivian Gray, whom Pebley called “one of the most challenging players to guard in the conference” combined for just eight points in the first half on 3-15 shooting. Gray would finish with 16 and Gordon 13, but when TCU needed a stop, more often than not they were able to at worst force a contested look or at best a miss. “We were more focused and disciplined — we beat them to spots. The defense isn’t going to take every shot away — have to think about what you want to give up and make sure every shot has a contest. We did that better today,” Pebley said. Additionally, the Frogs kept the nation’s second best team when it comes to making free throws off of the line, allowing them just seven attempts — of which only three were makes.
This is the second consecutive home game for TCU Women’s Basketball that has required a comeback, and another opportunity to showcase the growth of this young and talented team. Having had just their third practice as a complete team yesterday (yes, you read that correctly — since the season began in October, TCU Women’s Basketball has practiced with a full team just three times), the immediate and far future is bright in Fort Worth. “We are building this foundation of solid, good defensive principles, both to help us be good now and to be great in the future as well. I just think if we really focus on keeping growing discipline, toughness, and developing leadership on the court and in the locker room, our confidence is only going to grow,” Pebley said.
And with that confidence will come wins.
Next up for TCU is another tough challenge, as they will travel to Waco to take on #2 Baylor Tuesday night.