Senior Amy Okonkwo scored 10 of her career-high 36 points in the final 1:04 as the TCU women’s basketball team defeated Arkansas in a back-and-forth nail-biter, 82-78, at Bud Walton Arena on Thursday to advance to the quarterfinals of the WNIT for the second consecutive season.
Okonkwo became the first Big 12 player to score at least 36 points and grab 14 or more rebounds in either an NCAA or WNIT game since at least 1999-2000.
The Horned Frogs (23-10) will return home to host Cincinnati in the WNIT quarterfinals at 1 p.m. on Sunday at Schollmaier Arena.
Three other Frogs joined Okonkwo in double-figures in scoring as Lauren Heard and Adeola Akomolafe each had 12 points and Jayde Woods had 10.
TCU finished a season-best 23-of-25 from the free-throw line, including a perfect 8-for-8 from the line in the final 46 seconds of play.
TCU got off to a cold start in the opening minutes, missing its first four shots of the contest before Okonkwo hit a layup at the 5:55 mark to break the seal.
The Frogs promptly made their next seven shots to move within two at 20-18 as the game reached its first media timeout at the 2-minute mark. The Razorbacks answered with a 5-0 run to end the frame though, putting TCU down by seven, 25-18, at the completion of the first quarter.
TCU moved back within two early in the second quarter, but the Razorbacks continued to hit from deep with back-to-back three balls to force a Horned Frogs timeout at the 5:56 mark with the scoreboard reading 36-28 in favor of the home team.
The Horned frogs continued to fight, eventually getting its deficit back to three at 40-37 on a big Kianna Ray 3-pointer with 2:21 remaining in the half. Arkansas would score four of the final six points of the quarter to take a 44-39 lead into the break.
With Jordan Moore in early foul trouble, Okonkwo shouldered the offensive load with 15 points in the first half. Akomolafe also hit double-digits with 10 first-half points for the Frogs.
TCU came out of the locker room ready to play in the second half, scoring five quick points, capped by an Okonkwo three, to tie the game at 44-44.
Arkansas answered with a 5-0 run of its own to regain the lead but TCU didn’t let it balloon as it trailed by no more than eight the rest of the quarter. The Frogs would end the frame on a high note, scoring the final five points to move within two, 58-56, heading into the final 10 minutes.
The Razorbacks got a fast bucket to open the scoring in the fourth quarter, but it was at that point at the Frogs came roaring back. Okonkwo hit a straight-away 3-pointer to spark a 7-0 TCU run that also featured baskets by Heard and Ray as it took its first lead of the game.
WIth TCU up 63-60, Arkansas called a timeout to halt the Horned Frogs’ momentum and it worked. The Razorbacks scored the next six points to regain the advantage before a Moore lay-in stopped the run and made it a one-point game at 66-65.
Just moments later, Woods hit a clutch 3-pointer that sparked TCU’s biggest run of the night, a 10-0 outburst that also included a layup by Akomolafe and five consecutive points by Okonkwo.
An Arkansas jumper ended that stretch and made it a 75-70 game with 38 seconds remaining but the Horned Frogs sealed the victory at the charity stripe, hitting all seven of its free throws the rest of the way to leave Fayetteville with a huge road win.
Stat of the Day
36 – TCU senior Amy Okonkwo scored a career-high 36 points on 10-of-21 shooting, including a near-perfect 12-of-13 from the free-throw line. She poured in 10 points in the final 1:04 of the fourth quarter to help the Frogs clinch their 23rd win of the season and advance to the WNIT quarterfinals for the second consecutive season.
Quotes of the Day
TCU Head Coach Raegan Pebley
“I really believe that this was an 8-9 NCAA Tournament game what everybody saw today. It was absolutely an NCAA Tournament environment, so great job by the Arkansas fans and the committee that created that environment. I’m really proud of our team, proud of the Big 12. Our team has worked so hard. We really stress that you don’t rise to the occasion, you sink to your training. Had we not trained hard all year we would not have been ready to handle this situation. The crowd, coming back from being down, obviously Arkansas shooting the ball so well, Jordan Moore being in foul trouble. Our training came from preseason, from practice, from competing in the Big 12, playing in arenas like our own Schollmaier Arena, at Baylor, at Iowa State. The Big 12 sets you up for success in atmospheres like this. I am just really, really proud of our team. Arkansas had a great run at the end of the year and we are humbled to get out of this town with a win.”