TCU defeated the Vaqueros by just four points back on November 28th in the University Recreation Center, 71-67, but Thursday’s game was a completely different story.
“The last time that we played them we found out two minutes before the game that we weren’t going to have AJ [Alix], we didn’t have Veja [Hamilton] who had a concussion,” TCU head coach Raegan Pebley said, “and Destynee [Hives-McCray] got a concussion in game, so we were down three players from our top seven rotation at the time and really effected our defense and offense.”
Five Horned Frogs scored in double digits Thursday with three-time First-Team All Big 12 senior guard Zahna Medley leading the way with 21 points on 6-13 shooting, including hitting her 3-pointers at a 50% clip (5-10).
With her five 3-pointers she hit tonight, Medley surpassed Jill Sutton’s 1997-1998 TCU single-season record of 81 3-pointers. The five shots from deep Medley hit tonight increased her season 3-point total to 84.
Medley now can add the single-season 3-point record to her growing list of career accomplishments, as she was already the all-time leader in points and career 3-pointers made before Thursday’s NIT game.
“It’s [single season three-point record] just another blessing with the help of my teammates finding me when I’m open and me knocking down open shots just to help our team score, it’s a great feeling, especially in your senior career and in the postseason,” Medley said.
All Big 12 honorable mention AJ Alix also turned in a masterful performance, as she scored 20 points and a game-high 9 assists.
“AJ [Alix] helps Zahna [Medley] be at her best and Zahna helps AJ be at her best and when these two are playing well, that helps Toree [Thompson] be at her best,” Pebley said. “I think when you’ve got these three who can interchange with each other and sometimes we can go three guards, they’re just great shooters and they’ve gotten so much better with their decisions making off the bounce and getting into the paint.”
After UTRGV took a 5-4 lead halfway through the first quarter, the Frogs ended the quarter on a 17-5 run, which put them up 11 after the quarter concluded, 21-10.
The run was fueled by three-pointers from Alix and Toree Thompson, a fast-break layup from Veja Hamilton, and a fast-break layup from Alix with just a couple seconds left on the clock.
Defensively, Frogs set the tone early, limiting the Vaqueros to just ten first quarter points and then proceeded to hold them to a meager 38% field goal shooting for the game.
WAC player of the year, Shawnte’ Goff, who TCU head coach Raegan Pebley said has the potential to go off for 30-plus points on any given night, only scored 14 points on 4-11 shooting.
AJ Alix and Toree Thompson hit back-to-back threes with just over two minutes left in the quarter to retake the lead 12-8.
In the second quarter, the Vaqueros hit a couple three-pointers at the beginning of the quarter to cut the TCU to single digits, 25-16.
After that, TCU went on a 13-3 run halfway through the second quarter that was powered by a couple of steals, some put-back layups from Jordan Moore, free throws from Toree Thompson and Zahna Medley, a three-pointer from Medley, and a couple midrange jumpers from Veja Hamilton.
The only bucket the Vaqueros hit in that span was a three-pointer from Goff. That run put the Frogs up 19, 38-19.
The Horned Frogs’ hot shooting continued into the third quarter, as they hit on nine of their first ten shots to begin the quarter, which allowed the Frogs to take a commanding 32-point lead when the quarter concluded, 82-50.
Freshman forward Claire Ferguson even got some playtime, checking into the game with a 1:05 left in the third quarter. She also scored as well, with a put-back layup after a Toree Thompson missed free throw with 57 seconds left in the game.
This is TCU’s second straight year of making it to the NIT Round of 32. The Horned Frogs defeated another Texas foe, Stephen F. Austin, 85-80 in the first round last year.
“It’s [advancing to the next round] not something you can take for granted in postseason, which is something I’ve learned in my career, not to take these postseason games for granted because at any time any team can play at their best and knock you off of your game, so it’s just taking each game seriously one game at a time,” Medley said.
TCU aims to extend its season longer than last year’s, when they lost in the second round in overtime to Southern Mississippi.
The Horned Frogs will get that opportunity, as they host the winner of the Round 1 matchup between Eastern Michigan and St. Mary’s Saturday night at 7 p.m. back at Schollmaier Arena.