TCU’s defensive pressure outshines Durr’s recent success

Junior Bridget Carleton making free throw against the Bears during the game against Baylor on Jan. 17 at the Hilton Coliseum. 

Jack Macdonald

Three plays capsulated No. 22 TCU’s impressive defensive performance against Iowa State on Tuesday night.

It started with an attempted — key word being attempted — 3-pointer from sophomore Nia Washington. Kianna Ray of TCU swatted that attempted shot into the first row of the stands. 

“[TCU is] very aggressive defensively,” said Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly. “They play an extended zone, exactly the zone we worked on for a day-and-a-half… They get in the passing lane and chase the ball around.”

The next offensive possession, senior forward Claire Ricketts grabbed the ball down low. Ricketts went up to the hoop, but TCU’s Jordan Moore said not today and sent the ball back down as quick as it went up. Two possessions, two blocks.  

The final victim? Star junior Bridget Carleton. Carleton dribbled to the top of the key, shot the ball, but the ball didn’t go anywhere. Three purple TCU uniforms swarmed to her immediately. 

Simply put: Iowa State made one of the worst defenses in the Big 12 look like the best in a 75-52 loss. 

That extended zone Fennelly spoke of created havoc for the Cyclones all night long. A traditional zone is played mostly inside the arc, but the Horned Frogs extended that zone out to half-court. Every time the Cyclones crossed over into their offensive zone, TCU sent three players at the ball handler. 

The most noticeably rattled Cyclone was Washington. Each time Washington was attacked by TCU, the sophomore, at times, looked lost with the ball and dribbled herself into trouble. 

“We had kids that didn’t want the ball. We had kids that didn’t want to do anything with the ball,” Fennelly said. “When Bridget’s triple-teamed and she throws it to someone, gotta make a shot and gotta make a play.”

Fennelly also noted that the zone becomes more aggressive and physical when those two things don’t happen. And Iowa State put itself into a position most of the night. 

In fact, heading into Tuesday’s tilt, the Horned Frogs’ defense sat as the eighth worst defense in the Big 12 allowing 68.8 points per game. Baylor sits atop the Big 12 allowing 54.6. The Cyclones’ 52 points would have only matched the defensive average of two teams in the nation. 

TCU held Iowa State to 20-of-55 from the field for 36.4 percent. While that’s a hair below its season average, it shouldn’t come as a surprise when when you shoot 36.6 percent with two of your players accounting for 63.5 percent of the 55 points. 

One of those players was senior Emily Durr. The Utica, New York, native has come into her own following a benching against Baylor on Jan. 17. That benching sparked something in the senior as she has exploded for scoring outputs of 15,16, 20 and of course, tonight’s 21 points. 

While Durr has shown her true potential, Carleton has finally come back down to earth following her 39-point performance in the Cyclones upset over No. 22 Oklahoma State six days ago. Tonight, Carleton had a moderate 12 points. 

“We just got open looks, our teammates found us,” Durr said. “We try to create off each other and I thought the first half we did that really well… Their ball pressure was really good… We didn’t do a great job.”

In total, the tandem combined for 33 points and only two other Cyclones had five or more. And Fennelly doesn’t have to look far for the problem. That problem stems from players not wanting to step up. 

Fennelly even made a point that you can’t win with just two players at any level. At a loss for words, Fennelly highlighted that there is no reason why girls shouldn’t be stepping up when the entire roster gets playing time. 

However, one player that has stepped up is Ricketts. The senior snagged seven boards in the Oklahoma State game with Bride Kennedy-Hopoate out with an ankle injury, Ricketts was looked to as next one up at the post. 

Ricketts received her second start of the season and paced the Cyclones with five rebounds in a season-high 19 minutes. 

“I’m getting a lot more minutes than normal and I’m guessing my role now is just to try to battle down there in the post,” Ricketts said. “Just do the dirty work down there so we can get [Emily] and [Bridget] the ball.

“It was pretty intense [doing the dirty work down low].”