The ‘ol hype train started down the tracks for the TCU women’s basketball team on Tuesday.
Like any locomotive, it took a while for things to get moving.
But once it did it was easy to see why the Frogs entered this season with their highest Big 12 preseason ranking (fourth) since joining the conference in a 61-48 victory over Duquesne in front of a raucous pre-teen crowd at Schollmaier Arena.
They’ve got a bonafide 1-2 punch in Amy Okonkwo and Jordan Moore down low that would make any team in the conference jealous.
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Okonkwo didn’t start a game last season but led the team in points per game (14.4) en route to being names the Big 12’s Six Man of the Year. She’s in the starting lineup this season along with Moore (35 starts last season), Jayde Woods (27), Kianna Ray (18) and Lauren Heard (18).
Adeola Akomolafe, who had 22 starts last season, is coming off the bench. Think about that for a second.
There’s literally an overwhelming amount of experience anywhere you see purple.
That veteran leadership simply became too much for Duquesne, who did its best to fight back from a double-digit deficit most of the fourth quarter.
“I feel like this is the first time we’ve had seasoned leadership like this since I’ve been here,” TCU head coach Raegan Pebley said. “These are players that have been in the system, have helped develop the culture. It’s so huge and it keeps me in a good mood, which is good for everybody.”
Moore led all scorers with 22 points on 11-of-12 shooting. Okonkwo added 16 points and 11 rebounds. They were a big reason why the Frogs outscored Duquesne 36-18 in the paint.
“We always talk about this unspoken chemistry, this natural bond that we can play off each other pretty well,” Moore said of her and Okonkwo. “I think it will take us pretty far because we have been practicing together for a long time. We practice that connection and it shows on the floor.”
TCU had 21 assists on 25 field goals. Ray led the way with 10 of those.
“I’m really proud of Kianna,” Moore said. “Playing with her since the seventh grade, I’m really proud.”
One might not have guessed it by the way the Dukes (0-1) started the game, but this is a Duquesne team that was picked to win the Atlantic 10 Conference and had four seniors named to the preseason all-conference team. Those four seniors were just 4-for-29 from the floor.
“It’s great when you can start out 1-0, especially when you are able to get a win against a great, well-coached team with so many returning starters like Duquesne,” Pebley said. “One of the intentions of playing this team early was because they were good and the way they played was going to be really good for us to prepare for. And RPI. They turn around and are going to play Texas, which, regardless of what happens in that game, is a positive for us in RPI.”
The Dukes, thanks in part to TCU’s active hands on the defensive end, missed their first 10 shots and didn’t score for seven minutes. By that time the Frogs had raced out to a 10-2 lead on the back of Jordan Moore’s six early points.
“She’s a big young lady who is big and strong,” Dukes head coach Dan Burt said of Moore. “We allowed her to set up to deep and didn’t jam her early. That kid abused us.”
But Duquesne fought back with a 7-0 run in less than two minutes to cut TCU’s lead to 14-13. The Frogs finished the half strong, though, and came out of the half even stronger to stretch their 27-18 halftime lead to 34-18. The Dukes never really threatened Pebley’s club from that point forward.
The Frogs held the Dukes to 30 percent shooting (17-of-56), including 27 percent from 3-point range (6-of-22). TCU was, however, just 5-of-16 from the free throw line and had 19 turnovers.
Heard led all players with three steals. Moore and Ray each had two.
TCU (1-0) is back in action on Sunday when it will host Mississippi Valley State at noon.