FORT WORTH — Sometimes a young team faced against an aggressive zone defense is going to struggle.
Texas Tech women’s basketball coach Candi Whitaker knew that going into Saturday’s game at TCU, and you can bet she knows it a little bit better coming out of it.
The Horned Frogs’ 2-3 zone defense kept the Lady Raiders off tilt all afternoon, and TCU cruised past Tech 72-57 in Daniel Meyer Coliseum.
“I just thought they were really shaky,” Whitaker said of her young guards, who contributed to 16 Lady Raider turnovers. “To be a good zone offensive team, you just have to understand how zones work. We are very much still in the stages of understanding how zone defenses work and how to beat them.”
The Lady Raiders (6-17, 0-12 in Big 12 Conference play) struggled to score inside for the second straight game — TCU outscored Tech 36-12 in the paint — and All-Big 12 candidate Amber Battle couldn’t find her shooting touch.
Battle was kept to just 10 points on 3 of 12 shooting, her lowest scoring total since an eight-point night back on Jan. 6 in a 74-48 loss at Iowa State. The junior hybrid guard entered Saturday’s game fourth in the league in scoring, averaging 18.2 points per game.
“We want Amber shooting it,” Whitaker said. “We want the ball in her hands at every opportunity and we want her to be aggressive.”
Shauntal Nobles ended up leading Tech with 12 points, including a solid 8-for-10 clip from the free-throw line. But she was scoreless at the half with no shots, two rebounds and two turnovers in seven minutes. Lockhart and Ivonne CookTaylor each chipped in eight points.
Tech players were not made available for comment after the game.
Zahna Medley scored 23 points and Natalie Ventress powered in 20 to lead TCU.
While Battle didn’t have the best shooting night, much of the disruption to Tech’s offense was thanks to TCU (14-9, 5-6).
Frogs coach Jeff Mittie called his zone defense ‘active’ in pressuring the Lady Raiders and not allowing Battle and Tech’s post players to handle the ball close to the basket until late in the game.
“I thought our zone got their guards away, and I thought we did an excellent job on Battle in that area,” Mittie said. “Then we she did catch it, we had a lot of people around her. I thought we had a good awareness of where Battle was all day long.”
The awareness started from the onset.
While Tech didn’t fare too poorly from the field to start the game, early turnovers put the Lady Raiders in a big hole. A quartet of guards playing their full first season of Division I basketball — Minta Spears, CookTaylor, Marina Lizarazu and Lockhart — struggled in their passing.
Despite sometimes ugly passing sequences, Tech hit six of its first 10 shots to open the game, including a pair of Lockhart 3-pointers.
However, eight turnovers during that stretch meant a 24-18 deficit with 7:36 left in the first half, which TCU built on to coast into intermission up 34-22.
The Horned Frogs put the game away with a 20-6 run to open the second half, pounding the ball inside and eventually giving TCU just its third victory in program history against the Lady Raiders. Two of the three wins have come this season.
The Lady Raiders also added to their program-worst losing streak, which reached 13 games.
But there is still light at the end of the tunnel.
Mittie, who had to bring TCU into the Big 12 last year with a cadre of inexperienced players, empathized with what Tech is going through. The Horned Frogs lost their first 13 Big 12 games last season before upsetting a pair of ranked teams down the stretch.
I think Candi’s doing a really good job,” Mitte said. “They’re running a lot of good stuff. It’s hard sometimes with young players because just some days they just struggle in every area … I can see the improvement on tape of their basketball team.”