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TCU 83, OU 79: Lauren Heard’s clutch shooting highlights big fourth quarter

The Horned Frogs overcame a strong stretch from the Sooners to hold on for a critical win.

TCU Women's Basketball vs Texas | February 26, 2020 | Schollmaier Arena, Fort Worth, TX
TCU Women’s Basketball vs Texas | February 26, 2020 | Schollmaier Arena, Fort Worth, TX
Melissa Triebwasser

Lauren Heard: that’s the tweet.

TCU’s super senior had 14 points in the fourth quarter as the Horned Frogs overcame Oklahoma making eight of their last nine shots to finish with a four point victory on the road in a game that they led much of — but nearly gave away in the third.

Monday night’s OT defeat in the Little Apple was still fresh in their minds, but as Raegan Pebley said, “it was heartbreaking, but our hearts were still intact.” Those hearts were on full display in Norman, at the end of nearly week-long stretch where the team stayed together on the road. That extra togetherness paid off for the Frogs Thursday night. “It helped that we were together, that we got to spend the day just being together,” Pebley said. “We have not been able to do that [due to COVID protocols] — teams don’t even get to spend much time in the locker room together. So we came in with really strong chemistry.” Senior point guard Lauren Heard agreed. “We haven’t had the opportunity to just spend time together. We were able to stay together — and it wasn’t just basketball, we were hanging out. That bonding, we just felt closer.”

The Frogs trailed by one after one, but used a 23 point second quarter to take a five point lead into the half. After burying six threes against the Frogs in Fort Worth last week, Taylor Robertson appeared to have stayed hot on her home floor, scoring 11 first half points and hitting three of five attempts from behind the arc. But, in a change of direction, she would finish with just 14 Thursday night.

The Sooners came storming back in the third, outscoring the Frogs 24-15 and turning a deficit of as many as seven point to a lead of four heading into the fourth quarter. “The moment started to slip away from us,” Pebley said of the third quarter run. “But we got our confidence back, reset our minds. There was a lot of collaborative leadership and communication. The chemistry turned into symmetry.” Where they fell short Monday, they thrived Thursday, making the big plays that they needed to down the stretch. “We talked about it in the locker room — what was the difference today versus the last game?,” Heard said. “When times are hard, are you going to fold or do it together? We decided to pour into each other.”

The team pouring into each other led to Heard pouring in the points; coming into the night, Heard was the conference’s third-leading scorer, and her 31 point effort may well vault her into second with over 21 points per game. She had 14 in the fourth against Oklahoma, tying the game with a layup two and a half minutes in and giving the Frogs their first lead since midway through the third with the completion of the three point play. In her coach’s estimation, it was “Lauren Heard doing Lauren Heard things.” It’s games like this that remind you why the senior is so special — for what she does on the court and what she’s done to built the program off of it. “She’s just doing her best to be her best for her team. Leading by example, leading through influence, leading through performance, communication, accountability.” For Heard, it’s about doing whatever she can to help her team win now — while keeping an eye to the future, as well. “I want to show [the younger players] how important it is to bring it every single night. To compete hard, build that routine, those future habits. It’s about what happens now and what happens after I’m gone.”

Things got tight down the stretch, with the Sooners tying things up at 66 with 4:27 to play on a layup. But Michelle Berry drained a critical three to put TCU on top, and Aja Holmes ended a 5-0 Oklahoma run with a layup that started a 7-0 run by the Frogs. The Sooners made eight of their last nine shots in the game, but TCU had an answer at every turn, with five different players connecting in the final five minutes to hold OU at bay.

Heard had eight points in the final five minutes as well as two of her game high 11 steals, and added nine rebounds and two assists to her big night. Pebley, always quick to credit her special senior, had more gratitude to pass around after the game. “Give her parents credit, too. Tina and Reginald Heard have written the book on how to raise kids. They’ve shown everyone how to be supportive of your child, of the coaches, of the program. They’re phenomenal people.” When asked what singular lesson her parent’s passed along to her, the first word that came to mind for Lauren was simple: righteousness. “Yy parents are people that do everything right. They taught me that you reap what you sow, that the work you put in is what you get out. I can control what I am destined for if I just work for it — nothing is too hard or unattainable.”

That will be the mantra for TCU over the next ten days, as they get ready to close out the regular season and fight for a postseason opportunity. They helped themselves with the win Thursday, as they position for the best possible seed in the Big 12 Tournament next week.

“It’s just huge,” Pebley said of the victory. “It’s important for the standings, for our confidence. It’s hard to win on the road in the Big 12. But, the sum of it is yet to be determined — I have to see what we do against Texas.”

TCU will face the Longhorns in the regular-season finale Sunday at Schollmaier Arena, before heading to the Big 12 Tournament next week in Kansas City.