TCU women’s basketball comes into this season with big aspirations — head coach Raegan Pebley’s first NCAA Tournament appearance.
Last year, TCU finished with a 24-11 record, including a 10-8 record in conference play, but the first team left out the NCAA tournament.
Last year’s Horned Frogs are the first-ever Power Five school to finish their season with more than 20 wins and an above .500 record in conference play and not to get invited to March Madness.
Pebley said being shutout of the Big Dance last year has helped motivate her current squad.
“The returners felt like they positioned themselves really well last year for the tournament, and to be the first team left out on the bubble is painful, but I’m so proud of how they’ve responded, and they’ve carried that over into this year,” Pebley said.
This year’s squad is full of returners, including six seniors and one junior, but they lose over 30 points and 15 rebounds per game with the loss of Amy Okonkwo and Jordan Moore.
Senior guard Kianna Ray comes into the season as a Big 12 honorable mention, and the point guard said the team learned a lot from Okonkwo and Moore.
“Yummy [Morris] and Becky [Obinma] played behind Jordan and Amy last year, and they got to battle with them every day in practice, so that has really helped them step up this year,” Ray said.
This year’s older players will look to fill the void left by the four lost seniors and Pebley said she expects the offense to run through Ray.
“She’s [Ray] got a great IQ for the game,” Pebley said. “She’s a driving force for our team.”
Ray averaged 10.2 points per game and a team-best 4.1 assists per game last year, but she’s looking to improve those numbers this year.
“I’m definitely looking to keep getting my teammates the ball,” Ray said. “I love that I’m able to find my teammates, but I’m also looking to up my scoring. That’s been a big focus for me.”
Some of the other key pieces returning to this team include Adeola Akomolafe and a pair of returning post players, Ella Hellessey and Morris.
These returners are all hungry to get a bid into the NCAA tournament this year.
“Having six seniors returning with a sense of urgency, you can’t really match that. None of us have made it to an NCAA tournament yet, so we are doing whatever it’s going to take.”Kianna Ray
The Frogs also have high expectations for their three first-year players, especially Obinnma, a redshirt first-year.
“I definitely expect to see our three freshmen get some playing time this year,” Pebley said. “Becky [Obinma] has really developed in the interior. She grew a lot in her redshirt freshman year.”
The Horned Frogs open up their season in Schollmaier Arena against a tough mid-major, Robert Morris, Tuesday at 12 p.m.
The Colonials are unanimous picks to win the Northeast Conference as they bring back over 85% of their scoring from last year. They’ve made the NCAA tournament three out of the last four years.
“They just have so much senior leadership returning,” Pebley said. “They shoot the three-ball very well, and they have a great interior presence.”
Pebley said for this week of games, she is looking for her team to continue working on its defensive identity that made it one of the Big 12’s best defensive teams last year.