TCU gets rude awakening at hands of unbeaten Mountaineers

TCU #25 Kianna Ray fights West Virginia #11 Teana Muldrow for a loose ball in a womens basketball game at Schollmaier Arena at TCU Thursday, December 29, 2016.
TCU #25 Kianna Ray fights West Virginia #11 Teana Muldrow for a loose ball in a womens basketball game at Schollmaier Arena at TCU Thursday, December 29, 2016.

Thursday’s 83-61 loss to No. 12 West Virginia at Schollmaier Arena wasn’t just about growing pains and the development of a young team, though there will be more than a few teachable moments on the game film.

Thursday’s loss was more than that. This is the Horned Frogs’ new reality. Big 12 play is upon them.

Sure, West Virginia (13-0, 1-0 Big 12) came into conference play as the only team in the field sporting a spotless record and figures to be firmly affixed in the Big 12’s top tier. Not every conference foe will be as tall a test as the Appalachian Mountains.

But this TCU (8-4, 0-1) team with five freshmen and just two seniors got its first lesson Thursday in the kind of effort and execution it will take to win games in this conference. West Virginia forced 20 TCU turnovers (13 in the first half) and held the Frogs to 26.1 percent shooting from the field in the first half, while the Mountaineers built an insurmountable 41-19 lead at the break.

“A West Virginia team, they’ll hold some teams in this league under 50,” TCU coach Raegan Pebley said. “But the 20 turnovers is something that we really wanted to avoid. We weren’t ... back-cutting hard, using the right angles, securing passes. They’re going to turn you over and make you pay for it real quick.”

It was a lesson that TCU seemed to catch onto quickly, though. Not quickly enough for a comeback, of course, but quickly enough, maybe, to have an effect on the rest of the Frogs’ Big 12 schedule. Down 73-39 after three quarters, TCU rounded a corner, putting together a 12-2 run to begin the fourth against largely the same unit that did whatever it wanted against TCU in the first half.

Forward Amy Okonkwo nailed a 3-pointer that got the Horned Frogs back within 25, down 75-51 with just over six minutes left to play and finished with a team-high 17 points to go along with eight rebounds. TCU outscored West Virginia 22-10 in the fourth, with the WVU starting backcourt playing 79 combined minutes due to injuries.

“We got embarrassed, and we fought,” Pebley said. “But you’ve got to open the game that way. You’ve got to do the little things right so that you’re not fueling a team like West Virginia.”

Freshman guard Kianna Ray added 14 points and 11 rebounds, and point guard AJ Alix had 11 in the loss. Freshman guard Amber Ramirez sat out her fourth consecutive game with an undisclosed lower leg injury, though she was no longer wearing the protective boot on her left leg she sported in the Frogs’ last three nonconference wins.

“We’re really, really close, and we’re really eager to get her back,” Pebley said. “She alleviates some of the pressure that AJ has in the backcourt and she’s a heady defender. She’s a player that we can’t wait to get back in the rotation.”

Matthew Martinez; 817-390-7760; @MCTinez817

West Virginia












West Virginia (13-0) — Martin 7-17 4-6 21, Muldrow 5-16 8-10 19, Ray 4-10 8-8 17, King 6-13 2-4 14, Montgomery 3-3 2-2 8, Martin 1-1 2-2 4, Rhodes 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 26-60 26-32 83.

TCU (8-4) — Okonkwo 5-8 6-8 17, Ray 4-10 4-5 14, Alix 4-16 0-0 11, Thompson 3-6 0-0 7, Akomolafe 2-2 1-1 5, Butts 1-6 2-6 4, Christian 1-1 0-0 3, Hellessey 0-0 0-0 0, Moore 0-4 0-0 0, Willie 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 20-53 13-20 61.

3-Point Goals—West Virginia 5-21 (Martin 3-10, Muldrow 1-7, Ray 1-4), TCU 8-17 (Alix 3-8, Ray 2-3, Christian 1-1, Okonkwo 1-2, Thompson 1-2, Butts 0-1). Assists—West Virginia 20 (Ray 9), TCU 12 (Butts 5). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—West Virginia 42 (Montgomery 11), TCU 32 (Ray 11). Total Fouls—West Virginia 16, TCU 26. A—1,770.

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