TCU

TCU women expecting a long postseason stay

TCU coach Raegan Pebley, center, has made a smooth transition after long-time coach Jeff Mittie left for Kansas State right before last season’s WNIT opener.
TCU coach Raegan Pebley, center, has made a smooth transition after long-time coach Jeff Mittie left for Kansas State right before last season’s WNIT opener. Special to the Star-Telegram

At this time last year, the TCU women’s basketball team was in a state of confusion.

As the Horned Frogs were loading buses for their WNIT opening-round matchup against Colorado — quite an achievement for a team that was 9-21 the previous season — they were told their head coach, Jeff Mittie, would not be making the trip as he had just taken a job at Kansas State.

The season’s momentum was lost and, soon after, so was TCU’s first postseason game since 2011, 78-71.

“The situation with the postseason last year was a really tough spot with the coach just leaving and everything,” junior guard Veja Hamilton said. “There were a lot of emotional people on the team and playing that game was really tough for us.”

This season, TCU (17-13) finds itself in a better situation, hosting Stephen F. Austin (23-7) in the opening round of the 2015 WNIT with the stability of a full season under its new coaching staff.

While the team was disappointed that its NCAA Tournament bubble burst Monday, the chance to have a do-over for last year’s WNIT performance, this time at home, is an opportunity the team is excited to take, coach Raegan Pebley said.

A good performance, on the court and in the stands, could help the Horned Frogs land another home game if they are able to continue in the tournament.

“If we don’t sell it out, there’s a good chance that we don’t get that second-round bid,” Pebley said.

But first comes an SFA squad that gave TCU a run for its money last season before losing 60-52 in Fort Worth.

The Ladyjacks were the No. 1 seed in the Southland Conference Tournament but were bounced in the semifinals by eighth-seeded Houston Baptist and Carissa Diaz, sister to TCU’s Caitlin Diaz.

Of course, Diaz and her TCU teammates picked Carissa’s brain for intel on their opponent.

“Caitlin’s sister being on that team has helped give us a few things we can do a different way with their offense and defense,” Hamilton said. “It was helpful to have someone close who played them recently.”

The game features two conference defensive players of the year: TCU’s Chelsea Prince of the Big 12 and SFA’s Porsha Roberts of the Southland. Both teams use their defense to create offense, Pebley said.

TCU is over the disappointment of missing the NCAA Tournament. Now comes the challenge of exceeding the 2008 team that reached the WNIT quarterfinals. And it starts at home.

It’s what they’ve waited for the whole season.

“They’ve known that it’s coming and they don’t want to just be in it for one game,” Pebley said. “They want this to last a long time.”

Women’s NIT

Stephen F. Austin (23-7) at TCU (17-13)

7 p.m. Thursday, University Recreation Center

TCU’s WNIT history:

2008: Def. Boise St. 85-56; Def. Texas Tech 81-74; Lost to Colorado 96-90 in quarterfinals

2011: Lost to Oral Roberts 78-74

2014: Lost to Colorado 78-71

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