The No. 14 Cyclones (11-0 open the Big 12 slate tonight on the road against the TCU Horned Frogs (9-3) with payback on their minds.
TCU is 9-3 on the year, riding a five-game winning streak into it's game against Iowa State. Despite only winning two conference games last year, the Horned Frogs defeated then-No. 23 Iowa State in Fort Worth last March 61-58 behind 18 points from guard Zahna Medley. Medley returns for her sophomore season leading the Horned Frogs with 16 points per game, good for sixth in the Big 12.
TCU Head Coach Jeff Mittie is in his 15th year at TCU (22st overall) with a 294-164 (.642) record. Last season's 9-21 (2-16 in the conference) was his worst during his tenure in Fort Worth. However a recruiting class with two Top 100 athletes injected into the program and the Horned Frogs are ready to return to relevance in the conference.
A good matchup to watch will be a battle of the seniors down low; Lovings against the Cyclones' Hallie Christofferson. Both are 6-foot-3, and both are among the team leaders in rebounds and points per game. However, the most tantalizing matchup will be between guards Medley and Iowa State's Nikki Moody.
Medley is leading the Horned Frogs in scoring and also has 19 steals on the year, good for No. 8 in the conference. Moody is having a good year controlling the ball, however did struggle at times last year with turnovers. Can Moody keep Medley at bay? Look for the reigning Big 12 Freshmen of the Week Jadda Buckley to play a lot of minutes running the offense for the Cyclones if not.
Keep an Eye On
TCU is very big on the inside, starting two centers in Latricia Lovings and freshman Klara Bradshaw (6-foot-6). The Horned Frogs are plus-6.4 in rebounding margin on the year.
The Horned Frogs are third-best in the Big 12 in scoring defense, only giving up an average of 54.9 points per game, and are tops in the league with 75 blocked shots (6.25 average/per game). TCU averages around 10 steals a game, second in the confernce.
Despite the added length inside, Iowa State is actually averaging more rebounds (plus-9.2 rpg) than TCU, and freshmen Seanna Johnson is 4th in the Big 12 in rebounds (91) while Christofferson is 6th in the league with 87.
TCU's Loving is 8th (91 rebounds), while Bradshaw isn't in the league's top 20, only averaging 3.5 per contest. So while TCU has a sizeable advantage inside, the Cyclones' speed and quickness could play to their favor against a team starting two centers.
The Horned Frogs will want to slow things down and make Iowa State play in the half court. TCU won't turn the ball over much to allow Iowa State to push tempo and run, so the Cyclones will have to use their quickness down low as an advantage and keep both Loving and Bradshaw off the offensive glass to create fast break opportunities.
The good news: Johnson and Christofferson can do just that. If the Cyclones can keep TCU off the glass, and hit their open shots, I like them to win 75-69 on the road and begin the year 1-0 in conference play.