Not much fun was had in TCU’s first meeting with Kansas State on Feb. 11 in Manhattan.
TCU lost 93-79, as the players let the emotions of facing their former coach for the first time cloud their basketball judgment.
“We talked about when we played Kansas State we played the game too much on emotion instead of our habits and our identity and playing to our roles and our system,” TCU coach Raegan Pebley said. “That game was so important because we needed to learn a lot from it, and we did.”
Saturday, celebrating senior day in their home finale, the Horned Frogs made the turnaround, beating Kansas State 67-47 by doing what their coaches have preached all season — playing with joy.
“Coach P always tells us to play with joy and if we’re not playing with joy, we’re not playing good at all,” senior guard Natalie Ventress said. “When we’re out there having fun, we know we’re doing good.”
Ventress’ game epitomized her four years at TCU, shooting 3 for 5 from 3-point range for nine points.
Ventress sits fifth all-time in program history for 3-pointers made with 198.
“Ventress has been a great scorer,” Kansas State coach and former TCU coach Jeff Mittie said. “She doesn’t take a ton of shots today and she’s very, very effective. She’s shooting the ball real well, and she was shooting the ball well coming into this game.”
TCU (17-11, 9-8 Big 12) shot 63 percent (12 of 19) from behind the arc Saturday but saw that clip rise as high as 80 percent at the beginning of the second half.
Leading the charge was junior guard Zahna Medley, who was 4 of 7 from 3-point range as part of a game-high 18 points.
Medley’s performance was aided by the desire to send the seniors out on a high note, including Ventress, who hosted Medley on her recruiting trip and was one of the biggest reasons the junior decided to come to TCU, she said.
TCU’s defense held Kansas State to just 16 points in the first half, the 10th lowest-scoring first half in Wildcats history.
Leading that effort was senior forward Chelsea Prince, whose five steals all came in the first half. She moved into fifth all-time at TCU in steals with 225, passing Sandora Irvin’s 224.
“Chelsea was one of the more active defenders this program has had,” Mittie said.
TCU’s other senior, Donielle Breaux, finished with nine points and five rebounds.
Kansas State (16-12, 6-11) never could make a game of it, shooting 30 percent (16 of 52) from the field.
“You’re not going to beat them shooting 30 percent,” Mittie said. “They are too explosive offensively and we were just playing catch-up all day.”
TCU jumped to its biggest lead, 28 points, with five minutes to play, and the team was having fun — so much so that Ventress joined the promotional fan-dancing contest during a media timeout.
Unlike the game, Ventress couldn’t claim that win.
“We came into this game just thinking it’s another game that we need to win,” she said. “Because Mittie was on the other side, we didn’t let our emotions get in the way of how we were going to play today. With this game being senior night, we just put everything behind us till the end of the game.”