TCU

TCU women could punch NCAA ticket by beating Texas

Chelsea Prince, the Big 12 defensive player of the year, will help lead the Frogs in the Big 12 tournament Saturday.
Chelsea Prince, the Big 12 defensive player of the year, will help lead the Frogs in the Big 12 tournament Saturday. Star-Telegram

The TCU women’s rematch against Texas in its opening game of the Big 12 tournament might have more implications than any other game in the tournament.

TCU lost its regular-season finale Tuesday in Austin in an ugly 79-45 rout that saw the Horned Frogs shoot only 27.6 percent from the field and 13.6 percent from 3-point range, including 0 of 11 from beyond the arc in the second half.

TCU, which finished tied for fourth at 9-9 in the Big 12 standings and is 17-12 overall, relishes another chance at the Longhorns.

“It gives us an opportunity to get revenge on them for how we lost to them recently,” junior guard Zahna Medley said.

However, if TCU wants to have a real argument to make the NCAA Women’s Tournament, then Saturday’s game is more than a grudge match.

Heading into the Big 12 tournament, TCU sits 61st in the country in RPI, certainly making them a bubble team to make the field of 64.

What plays to TCU’s advantage is its conference. The Big 12 is rated the No. 1 in RPI in the nation.

TCU coach Raegan Pebley didn’t shy away from a little politicking Friday, after TCU completed its shoot-around at American Airlines Center.

“Are we deserving of it? Yeah,” Pebley said. “I think we’re deserving of being in the NCAA Tournament. I think so many teams in our conference are deserving of it.”

“This conference is deserving of a good five teams in the tournament. I don’t know if there’s been a time that there’s been a team that’s gone 9-9 in the Big 12 that’s not gotten into the NCAA Tournament. I think we, as a league, have made it tough on the selection committee.”

It hasn’t been since the 2005-06 season that a team in the Big 12 finished with a .500 or greater record and didn’t make the NCAA field. That year Texas Tech, Kansas State and Nebraska were left on the outside with 9-7, 8-8 and 8-8 records, respectively.

It was also the year Texas Tech posted a 2-11 record on the road, the lowest win total away from home by a Big 12 team finishing the regular season above .500 until TCU and Iowa State hit that low mark this season at 2-8 and 2-9, respectively.

The University Recreation Center, with its tight quarters and rowdy crowds, has certainly been a advantage for TCU and opposing coaches have noticed.

“I think the setting that they’re playing in right now is a huge advantage,” Oklahoma State coach Jim Littell said after TCU’s 70-66 home win over the Cowgirls on Jan. 10. “If I were them, I’d want to play every game in the rest of their existence here because it has a great atmosphere to it.”

Both of TCU’s victories over ranked teams — Oklahoma State and Texas — were at the URC, where TCU shot 43 percent from the field and 38 percent on 3-pointers.

On the road, in much bigger venues, TCU’s field-goal percentage dropped to 38 percent and 28 percent from 3-point range.

American Airlines Center is one of the larger, if not the largest, venue TCU will play in this season.

“I think everybody is going to have to shoot on those exact same rims and with the exact same balls,” Pebley said “I think those pluses and minuses are only what you make of them and the approach you choose to take with it.”

Unlike Tuesday’s game, TCU isn’t facing Texas on the Longhorns’ senior night.

The Frogs also have drawn up a game plan that took down the Longhorns 64-59 at the University Recreation Center on Feb. 1.

The key is just finding that rhythm early against the No. 22 RPI team in the nation.

“We don’t have things strategically we need to change very much,” Pebley said. “We just need to do it better. I do think we’re a better shooting team than we showed the other night. I think changing a whole lot at this point is not a good idea with the team, because you’re so late in the season.”

TCU women vs. Texas

8:30 p.m. Saturday, American Airlines Center, Dallas

TV: FSSW Plus

Records: TCU 17-12, Texas 20-9

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