TCU women rule inside to subdue Texas Tech

TCU guard Natalie Ventressm right, drives around Texas Tech’s Ivonne CookTaylor at the University Recreation Center. Ventress led the Horned Frogs with 11 points Sunday.
TCU guard Natalie Ventressm right, drives around Texas Tech’s Ivonne CookTaylor at the University Recreation Center. Ventress led the Horned Frogs with 11 points Sunday. Star-Telegram

Leading scorer Zahna Medley began the game on the bench after she overslept and arrived late to a team function. So the TCU women’s coaching staff decided to go big, giving 6-foot-6 Klara Bradshaw the start.

“Unfortunately, Zahna had an alarm-clock issue this morning and was late for our gameday film,” TCU coach Raegan Pebley said. “She is a great teammate and leader, and, of course, this is outside the norm for her. Mistakes happen for sure, and she handled the consequences with great maturity.”

Combined with extra minutes from 6-foot-1 junior Caitlin Diaz, TCU racked up 32 points in the paint and outrebounded Texas Tech 44-30 in a 71-60 Horned Frogs victory Sunday at the University Recreation Center.

Diaz posted her best stat line of the season, scoring a career-high nine points, tying a season high in rebounds with eight, as well as posting two assists, a block and a steal in 22 minutes on the court.

Diaz received more playing time because of her rebounding effort in practices, Pebley said.

“I could tell that she recognized it’s something she wanted to prove that she can bring to our team,” Pebley said. “It was great to see her produce.”

After checking in with 14:31 left in the first half, Diaz quickly netted two layups on inbounds plays, giving her the confidence to keep shooting, she said. She made a 3-pointer to put TCU (14-8, 6-5 Big 12) ahead 29-24 with 4:23 left before halftime

“My teammates always tell me and Coach always tells me when I’m open, shoot it,” Diaz said. “Just look at the rim and shoot the ball. That’s just what I did today.”

Diaz was a part of 27 points TCU gained from the bench Sunday, including eight from Medley in her 23 minutes of play.

Senior guard Natalie Ventress finished with a team-high 11 points followed by senior guard Donielle Breaux and junior Veja Hamilton with 10 each.

Ventress’ 3-pointer with 15:32 left in the game was part of a 10-0 run that built a 15-point lead , and was the first field goal from either team in the second half.

The first of Ventress’ three 3-pointers with two minutes remaining in the first half gave TCU a lead it would never relinquish and which grew as high as 16.

TCU struggled to find an offensive foothold in the early minutes of the game amid numerous whistles

“We had to adjust to the refs early because they weren’t just calling fouls on us, they were calling them on them too,” senior Chelsea Prince said.

Once they found a flow, the Frogs found it easy to work around Tech’s high-pressure, full-court press, which is similar to the defense TCU adopted this season.

“I think it was actually good for our offense this week because we just ran our offense and guarded it,” Pebley said. “It was good for us to be able to spend some time in practice not having to be so focused on an opponent.”

Tech (13-10, 3-8 Big 12) senior guard Amber Battle finished with a game-high 20 points, but Pebley said she was proud of the way her defense kept the Big 12’s fourth-best scorer from going on any runs.

“It was just important to make her work,” Pebley said. “That was part of our game plan. She’s a great basketball player. We know that we can’t stop her one-on-one; it was going to be team effort in trying to get her fatigued throughout the game.”

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