Early minutes in chunks, as TCU’s freshmen and sophomores got in the Horned Frogs’ season-opening 88-40 win over Incarnate Word on Friday are just what coach Raegan Pebley ordered.
“We want to get them as much experience as we can, and I’d love to have a rotation that gets us at least 10-deep,” Pebley said. “When we make rotations, we can still maintain size.”
Nine players, including three of the five freshmen on the 2016-17 roster, logged 16 minutes or more as the Frogs worked out the kinks early on offense and cruised to the win via a 26-6 scoring advantage in the third quarter.
“I really liked their focus defensively,” Pebley said. “And they let the defense start their offense.”
Sophomore forward Amy Okonkwo sparked the Frogs late in the first quarter with back-to-back 3-pointers in the final minute of the opening frame. She was instant offense all night long, scoring a game-high 21 points and pulling down 10 rebounds in just 18 minutes in her first game for TCU.
Okonkwo sat out the 2015-16 season after transferring to TCU from Southern California, where she averaged 3.3 points in just over seven minutes a game as a freshman.
“Seeing the ball go in is really energizing, but also just knowing that my teammates are looking for me and that the offense is working,” Okonkwo said. “That’s what got me going.”
Her first eight points came in the final two minutes of the first after subbing in for the first time with just over four minutes left. Mikayla Christian found her open on a fast break before Okonwko nailed her first two 3-point attempts of the season. Christian found her again near the top of the key with 39 seconds left in the first to give TCU a 19-7 lead at the time.
Okonkwo showed another side to her game late in the second, as she backed down a smaller defender and made a spin move toward the basket for the hoop that gave the Frogs a 38-21 lead with 41 seconds left before halftime. The sophomore went 7 for 9 from the field in her Frogs debut, including 3 of 4 from deep.
Despite settling for 3-pointers early in possessions at times, TCU outscored Incarnate Word 28-2 in the paint in the first half, and 48-8 for the game.
Freshman guard Amber Ramirez scored seven points and blocked three shots in 21 minutes in her first game for TCU, coming off the bench just three minutes into the game and scoring her first bucket with 3:20 left in the third quarter, finishing a fast break on a pass from Okonkwo.
She hit her first 3-pointer on the next possession on another assist from Okonkwo as Ramirez came open deep on the wing to put the Frogs up 57-27 late in the third.
Matthew Martinez; 817-390-7760; @MCTinez817