Women’s basketball tops Cincinnati​ to advance to WNIT semifinals

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Senior Amy Okonkwo had her second-straight double-double in the victory for TCU. Photo by Heesoo Yang

TCU women’s basketball held Cincinnati to just one made field goal in the last 14:39 to defeat the Bearcats 69-55 and advance to the WNIT semifinals for the second-consecutive season.

“They could’ve pouted.  They could’ve gotten in their feelings,” head coach Raegan Pebley said of her team after they were left out of the NCAA tournament. “Instead, they just really really locked in on each other.”

The stark defensive play came after TCU went down 50-46 with 4:39 left in the third quarter. The Horned Frogs dominated from there and would only allow the Bearcats to score five points for the rest of the game.

TCU came out of the gate swinging, responding to Cincinnati’s opening layup with an 11-0 run. Guard Lauren Heard led this early spark with five points of her own during the span.

“One of the strong messages we had about Cincinnati was that they were going to try and be the aggressor,” Pebley said. “We had to work really hard to continue to own the steering wheel.”

The Horned Frogs continued their success through the first half of the period, going up by as much as 10 at one point. The Bearcats did not back down, though, as guard Antoinette Miller led them on an 11-4 run to cut TCU’s lead to just three at the end of the quarter.

Miller, a member of the All-AAC Second Team this season, poured in 14 points in the first ten minutes alone.

The second quarter turned into a fight, as both teams stayed aggressive and traded punches deep into the period. Although the Horned Frogs were using their size advantage to dominate the boards, the Bearcats were utilizing the fast break to stay in the game.

With 5:44 left in the half, Cincinnati crawled within one, 27-26, but they were never able to take the lead from there.  TCU retook a commanding 38-29 lead through team basketball, spouting off an 11-3 run that featured scoring from five different Horned Frogs. 

After scoring a career-high 36 points in TCU’s round 3 win over Arkansas, forward Amy Okonkwo continued her dominant postseason play by scoring 15 points and grabbing six rebounds for the Horned Frogs in the first half alone.

The Horned Frogs had dominated defensively in the first two periods, holding the Bearcats to just 37.5 percent from the field as a team.  Limar’i Thomas, Cincinnati’s second leading scorer and a member of the All-AAC First Team, had gone 0-2 with zero points in the first half.

The Bearcats were clearly unfazed by their deficit, as they opened the second half on an 13-3 run to go up three, 44-41, with 6:23 left in the third. 

“Tonight, I thought, obviously, they came out in the second half and went on a pretty impressive run,” Pebley said. “We just had to lock on in just our defense and their tendencies and just get more focused.”

After Cincinnati took their biggest lead of the game at 50-46 with 4:39 left to play in the fourth quarter, TCU finished the period on a 10-0 run to take a 56-50 lead into the final quarter.

The Horned Frogs would cruise from there, continuing to dominate defensively.  The Bearcats made just one field goal in the last 14:39 of the game, scoring only five points on 7 percent shooting in the fourth quarter.

The Horned Frogs were excellent defensively late in the game, holding the Bearcats to just five points in the fourth quarter. Photo by Heesoo Yang

“It came from just really being locked in on that defensive end and then caring for the ball on the offensive end,” Pebley said.

The five points scored by Cincinnati were the fewest allowed in the fourth quarter by the Horned Frogs all season.

Okonkwo finished with a double-double for the second-straight game, scoring 20 points and bringing down a game-high 13 rebounds.  The scoring total moves her into sole possession of 10th on TCU’s all-time scoring list, with 1,302 points in her career.

“I just go out there and play hard no matter what game it is,” Okonkwo said. “I just try to show up for my team every single game.”

Joining Okonkwo in the double-double category, Jordan Moore finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds of her own. 

Center Jordan Moore scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to join Okonkwo with a double-double. Photo by Heesoo Yang

“These seniors [Okonkwo and Moore] have led us really well with a focused sense of urgency,” Pebley said.

The victory improves TCU’s record to 24-10, as the Horned Frogs reach the 24-win mark for the first time since the 2003-2004 season.

In the semifinals, TCU will face the winner of Arizona versus Wyoming on Wednesday, April 3. Time and location are to be determined.