After struggling in the first half, TCU women’s basketball locked up on defense and saw stellar three-point shooting from guard Kianna Ray to defeat SMU in their toughest matchup of the season thus far.
“This is a tough team,” said Ray. “I think it tested us and kind of exposed some things.”
Ray went a career-best 6-11 from deep on the day, finishing with a career- and game-high 20 points.
“I think it’s just from our staff and my teammates instilling that confidence in me constantly,” Ray said about her shooting performance. “They just kept that message going for me.”
Scoring wasn’t Ray’s only impact, as the junior out of Austin also added six assists, five rebounds, two blocks and three steals to lift the Frogs to victory.
“That’s just continuing to let my teammates know that I have confidence in them and I trust them to go make a good play,” said Ray.
The Horned Frogs came out aggressive early, trapping SMU high to force the ball out of the hands of their guards. They would then move to a full-court press later in the second quarter.
Despite their hustle, the Horned Frogs were down 33-29 at half. Center Jordan Moore was on the bench for most of the half in foul trouble, and the Mustangs were thriving amidst TCU’s press, shooting 48 percent from the field and 38 percent from three.
“It’s good experience for us to learn how to play and win without Jordan’s [Moore] presence inside,” said head coach Raegan Pebley.
Despite Ray’s 4-5 from three, TCU shot just 28 percent from the field and 27 percent from three in the first half.
The second half was a different story as the Horned Frogs’ press began to look like the one that forced Mississippi Valley State to commit 27 turnovers just a week before.
“I thought the key moment of the game was probably how we came out in the second half—aggressive,” Pebley said. “A stat that doesn’t show on a box score is deflections and the aggressive perimeter defense that we had.”
TCU ended up forcing six turnovers in the second half while committing only two. On top of this, Moore returned to score all 11 of her points in the second half on 5-6 shooting.
Forcing the Mustangs into quick shots and playing efficient basketball of their own, the Horned Frogs opened the game up in the third quarter, leading by as much as 12 at one point.
SMU would respond with a 13-3 run to come within one point with just 1:33 left in the game.
“I know they’re an extremely young team, but when you are playing against that team, they’re not a team that acts their age,” said Pebley.
After guard Lauren Heard made a free throw to put TCU up 65-63 with 26 seconds left in the game, the Horned Frogs’ defense prevailed again, stopping the Mustangs on their final possession to win their closest game of the season.
Heard finished with nine points, five assists and two steals in the win. She was one of three players (along with Ray and forward Amy Okonkwo) who played over 30 minutes in the game.
“Our returners have to bring that leadership, and we kind of had to in this game,” said Ray.
Okonkwo finished with nine points, six rebounds and two blocks. Pebley said Okonkwo’s play was crucial in the first half when Moore had spent extended time on the bench in foul trouble.
“We had to really utilize and rely on a lot of our leadership, especially with Jordan [Moore] missing so much of the game,” said Pebley. “[We] weren’t able to play as deep of a bench just because of the way they challenged us.”
The Horned Frogs will spend the week of Thanksgiving in San Diego as part of the San Diego State University Thanksgiving Classic. Their first game is scheduled for 9 p.m. on Nov. 23 against BYU in San Diego, Calif.