TCU

TCU survives Eastern Michigan comeback to advance to WNIT Sweet 16

AJ Alix made 7 of 10 3-point attempts and scored a team-high 23 points in TCU’s victory.
AJ Alix made 7 of 10 3-point attempts and scored a team-high 23 points in TCU’s victory. jmarshall@star-telegram.com

After scoring a season-high 97 points on Thursday, which marked a program postseason record and WNIT single-game record, it was clear the Horned Frogs wanted to continue that trend on Saturday.

It started off that way, but TCU’s second-round opponent, Eastern Michigan, didn’t want any part of it.

We feel very fortunate, our girls were tired, their team was tired and we just played with some energy.

TCU coach Raegan Pebley

The Frogs saw a 21-point lead nearly erased, but hung on to win 85-81 and advance to the Sweet 16 of the WNIT tournament.

“Eastern Michigan is aggressive defensively and has players with so much confidence on the floor, and such an experienced team too, and it shows,” TCU coach Raegan Pebley said. “We feel very fortunate. Our girls were tired, their team was tired and we just played with some energy. Really grateful and excited for the program that we’re advancing to the Sweet 16.”

TCU’s next opponent will come from the winner of the Arkansas State-UTEP game, which tips off at 8 p.m. Monday.

“We’ll do whatever we can to be prepared for whoever we play and wherever we will play,” Pebley said.

Leading 78-62 with 4:17 left, TCU found itself in a cold spell.

Chanise Baldwin, who finished with a game-high 26 points, helped the Eagles to a 14-2 run in a three-minute span, trailing 80-76 with 49.8 left. Cha Sweeney hit back-to-back 3-pointers to start the comeback with 4:17 in the fourth.

It was about composure and it was about confidence. It was great to see us regain some of that.

Pebley on TCU responding to Eastern Michigan’s comeback attempt

However, like the entire night, TCU (18-14) stayed composed.

“It was about composure and it was about confidence,” Pebley said. “It was great to see us regain some of that. We both made some really tough shots, but I’m very proud of our guards in handling the press toward the end of the game.”

AJ Alix hit two quick 3-pointers that set the tone early as TCU led 8-7 with 7:36 left in the first quarter.

“It starts off with my teammates and they have confidence in me to shoot the 3,” said Alix, who was 7 of 10 on 3-pointers for a team-high 23 points.

The Frogs ended the first quarter on a 15-3 run. TCU extended its run to 23-3 and got out to its biggest lead of 31-10 after Toree Thompson’s 3-pointer with 7:30 left in the half.

Eastern Michigan (22-12) was able to trim the TCU lead with six straight points and used a 20-11 run to go into the break down 12. The Eagles continued their comeback as Baldwin’s 10-foot jumper cut TCU’s lead to 49-45 with 5:50 left in the third quarter.

Veja Hamilton scored with 3:51 left in the third, which capped seven straight points from the Frogs as Eastern Michigan went scoreless for two minutes to go back down 11.

Veja has so many assets about her game and what’s so valuable is her IQ. She understands that legacies are being left and her performances are really demonstrating that.

Pebley on Veja Hamilton, who had 18 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.

Hamilton finished with 18 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.

“Veja has so many assets about her game and what’s so valuable is her IQ,” Pebley said. “She understands that legacies are being left and her performances are really demonstrating that.”

The Frogs shot 12 of 26 3-pointers and had 25 assists on 31 field goals.

TCU has won two playoff games in one season for just the second time in program history. The Frogs also did it in the 2008 WNIT.

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