When a loss meant the end of the 2016 season, TCU put together its best offensive performance of the year to advance past UT Rio Grande Valley 97-73 on Thursday night in an opening-round game of the WNIT at Schollmaier Arena.
The Horned Frogs shot 53.8 percent from the field, including 11 of 25 from 3-point range, while holding UT RGV to 38.1 percent shooting and just 10 points in the opening quarter.
Five Frogs scored in double figures, led by their guards, Zahna Medley with 21 points and AJ Alix with 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting, nine assists and three steals.
The team’s 97 points were a season-high.
The Frogs, advancing to the WNIT round of 32 for the second straight year, will host Eastern Michigan at 7 p.m. Saturday. Eastern Michigan (21-11) defeated St. Mary’s 74-73 on Thursday.
“What I thought was great about AJ was although she didn’t start off defensively sound, she really reset herself and refocused to clean things up,” TCU coach Raegan Pebley said.
Alix drew the defensive assignment against UT RGV guard Shawnte Goff, the Western Athletic Conference player of the year who scored 22 against the Horned Frogs in the teams’ first meeting, a 71-67 TCU win in November. Alix, with help on ball screens, held Goff to 14 this time around.
The Frogs took control of the game with a 17-5 run in the final 4:50 of the opening quarter. That turned a 5-4 deficit into a 21-10 lead after one, and TCU never looked back.
TCU continued to push the pace, and the run ballooned to 34-14 in the first five minutes of the second quarter, when TCU took a 38-19 lead on a short jumper from senior Veja Hamilton, who had 15 points.
“We adjusted our press a little bit. I think that helped us cover some of the areas of the floor they were capitalizing off of,” Pebley said.
TCU outscored UT RGV 24-7 off turnovers and 16-3 in fast-break points. The 19 turnovers TCU forced were largely live-ball turnovers that led to easy scoring chances in transition.
I’m very thankful for the opportunity to keep playing. ... It’s survival.
TCU senior guard Zahna Medley
Medley had five assists, and her five 3-pointers put her at 84 for the season. Her third, with 1:59 left before halftime, put the Frogs up 42-27 and put Medley ahead of Jill Sutton’s single-season 3-point mark of 81. The sharpshooter was more interested in continuing her senior season for one more game, though, than counting skins on the wall.
“I’m very thankful for the opportunity to keep playing,” Medley said. “It’s something that you can’t take for granted in the postseason. Any team can come out and play their best and knock you off, so we take every one of these seriously. It’s survival.”
TCU beat Stephen F. Austin in the opening round last year before the season ended with a 77-73 loss at Southern Mississippi in the second round.
The Frogs took control with a 17-5 run in the final 4:50 of the opening quarter.