TCU women get new lease on postseason in WNIT

TCU coach Raegan Pebley said she has been encouraged by her team’s intensity during practice before its WNIT game against UT Rio Grande Valley.
TCU coach Raegan Pebley said she has been encouraged by her team’s intensity during practice before its WNIT game against UT Rio Grande Valley. Star-Telegram

For TCU, there’s quite a bit wrapped up in Thursday’s second matchup of the year against UT Rio Grande Valley in the opening round of the Women’s NIT. But all the Horned Frogs see in front of them is a chance to keep the season alive.

The game is at 7 p.m. from Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena.

After dropping a Big 12 tournament game to Kansas — which went winless in regular-season conference play — the Frogs were left as the highest-seeded Big 12 team not selected for the NCAA tournament. Those circumstances have a tendency to do one of two things to a team: make it retreat into talk of “next year” or galvanize the players for one last chance to make good on the season.

TCU coach Raegan Pebley is pretty sure her team fits into the latter.

“You could tell a couple days after the Big 12 tournament this was a group that was feeling sorry for itself,” Pebley said. “But we only know one way to recover and that is to get back in the gym and work really hard. And the focus has come from the leadership on the roster, so I’m encouraged by the team’s intensity.”

The environment at recent practices reminds Pebley of off-season workouts: long, intense, with a lot of running and not a lot of time left to think about losses in the past.

TCU (16-14) tip-toed past UT RGV 71-67 in November, back when TCU called the University Recreation Center home. Three-time All-Big 12 first-team selection Zahna Medley had a season-high 31 points and seven rebounds in the victory.

Zahna Medley ranks in the top 10 of 14 TCU career statistical categories, including points, assists and 3-point field goals made.

Medley can add to the long list of superlatives next to her name if she hits more than one 3-pointer against Rio Grande Valley (19-13). Two would tie Jill Sutton’s TCU single-season record of 81. Medley already has become TCU’s all-time leader in scoring (1,921 points) and 3-pointers (308).

Only five active college players have more 3-pointers than Medley.

But an improved UT RGV team finished as runners-up in the Western Athletic Conference tournament to New Mexico State.

A key for TCU would be to feature more than one scorer, something that has plagued the team in its last two games, both against Kansas — a 55-52 win in the regular-season finale and a 81-64 loss in the Big 12 tournament opener.

The Frogs will turn to sophomore guard AJ Alix, who averages 11.6 points a game and shoots better than 40 percent from 3-point range. Alix led TCU with 16 points in the loss to Kansas.

“AJ has helped us so much. She’s showed great growth and is one of the most improved players in the league,” Pebley said.

The meeting between TCU and UT RGV also brings back a familiar face to Fort Worth in Vaqueros coach Larry Tidwell, who was TCU’s associate head coach and recruiting coordinator from 1999-2007 during some of the program’s best years.

UT Rio Grande Valley at TCU women

7 p.m. Thursday

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