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TCU Basketball Preview: Rhode Island

TCU looks to rebound from their first loss of the season tonight against Rhode Island in the Semifinals of the 2015 Cancun Challenge.

Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Game Time: 5:00pm CDT| Location: Hard Rock Riviera Maya - Cancun, Mexico
TV: CBS College Sports | Series: URI Leads 1-0 | Game Line: URI -6.0

The Frogs' stretch of tough non-conference games continues tonight against the Rhode Island Rams in the opening game of the 2015 Cancun Challenge. TCU stumbled in their first of four consecutive games against tournament teams from a year ago in a 76-67 loss to South Dakota State on Saturday. The Frogs enter the game 2-1 on the year with wins over Southeastern Louisiana and Houston Baptist. Rhode Island is also 2-1 after a dominant 73-45 win over Cleveland State on Saturday. The Rams defeated American to open the season before falling to Valparaiso.

Rhode Island finished 23-10 a year ago, narrowly missing an invitation to the NCAA Tournament. Instead, the Rams found themselves in the NIT, where they defeated Iona before falling to Stanford. However, URI is without their biggest weapon from last season after guard E.C. Matthews suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Rams' win over American. He averaged 17 points per game last year and was named to this year's Preseason All-Atlantic 10 first team.

What the Rams do return is a dominant defense that held opponents to just 60.2 points per game in 2014-15, a mark that finished 30th in the nation. Rhode Island also averaged 5.5 blocks per game, the 12th most in the country. Through three games this year, URI is holding their opponents to just 48.3 points per game on 34.2% shooting, second only behind Clemson and their 47.0 points per game average. The Rams are also averaging 6.3 blocks per game this season.

With Matthews' absence, the starting five has been asked to carry the load for Rhode Island this season. The Rams' five starters are each averaging over 10.0 points and 26.0 minutes per game, and collectively make up for 88.7% of the team's total offensive output. In fact, Rhode Island's bench has scored just 22 of the team's 193 points on the year.

Jared Terrell has led the charge this season, averaging 13.0 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. Hassan Martin has been lethal as well, averaging 12.0 points per game on 58.3% shooting from the field. He also leads the team with 5.3 rebounds per game. Four McGlynn, Jarvis Garrett, and Kuran Iverson round out Rhode Island's starting five and are averaging 11.3, 10.7, and 10.0 points per game respectively.

On the other side, Vladimir Brodziansky has emerged as a surprise leader for the Frogs. He leads the team with 14.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks per game while also sporting a 61.5% shooting percentage, the highest on the team. Additionally, he has committed just five turnovers in 82 total minutes of play. An 18-point outburst from Malique Trent against South Dakota State pushed his average into double-figures and currently rests at 12.7 per game. He also leads the team with 10 assists on the year.

Chauncey Collins is running the point for the Frogs and has averaged 12.0 points per game thus far. He has emerged as one of the nation's best free throw shooters. After starting 17/17, Collins is now 18/19 on the year. Brandon Parrish is the team's best three-point shooter, at 71.4% on the year. He is averaging 11.3 points per game. Karviar Shepherd, with his 10.0 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, rounds out the starting five for TCU. Devonta Abron has been a spark plug off the bench, averaging 10.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per game. He is also shooting an impressive 53.4% from the field.

The Frogs have struggled somewhat on the defensive end without Kenrich Williams and Chris Washburn, who are both missing time due to injury. TCU is giving up 72.0 points per game through three contests this season. However, nearly one-quarter of all points scored this season against TCU have come from the free throw line. Facing a Rhode Island squad full of hot shooters, the TCU defense will have to come up big inside. The Rams excel inside the three-point line, where they are shooting 53.6% on the year. A major deciding factor in this one will likely be how the Frogs' perform on the defensive end.

Three Things to Watch:

1. Free Passes

Fouling has been somewhat of an issue for the Frogs through the first three games. As a team, TCU is averaging over 22 fouls committed, resulting in about 25 free throw attempts per game for the opposition. Luckily for TCU, their foes are shooting just over 70% from the line this season, but that still results in about 18 points per game scored from the free throw line. In what is likely to be a close game tonight, the Frogs can't afford to give Rhode Island many free chances at the line.

2. Drought Busters

This sounds painfully obvious, but bear with me. Against South Dakota State, TCU had a stretch of 9:18 that spanned across the end of the first half and the beginning of the second in which the Frogs shot 1/11 from the field and committed eight turnovers. During that span, SDSU was able to take their nine-point lead and increase it to a 22-point lead, one that would be too large for TCU to overcome. Basketball is a game of runs, and there will be natural ebbs and flows throughout the course of a contest. However, the Frogs must avoid these droughts that last seven, eight, or nine minutes.

3. Inside Opportunities

There is a very real chance that this game is decided in the 60's. For the Frogs to come out on top, it will be imperative that they take advantage of every possession and every opportunity that may arise, especially in the paint and near the basket. TCU is shooting just under 50% as a team from inside the three-point line. Against Rhode Island's tough defense tonight, opportunities may be limited, so the Frogs must capitalize on layups and close shots. If the Frogs can establish a presence inside, hopefully the offense can break through enough to send TCU into tomorrow night's Championship Game.

TCU Projected Starters

Rhode Island Projected Starters

G

Chauncey Collins

12.0 ppg, 2.7 apg

F

Hassan Martin

12.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg

G

Malique Trent

12.7 ppg, 3.3 apg

F

Kuran Iverson

10.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg

G

Brandon Parrish

11.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg

G

Jarvis Garrett

10.7 ppg, 2.7 apg

F

Vladimir Brodziansky

14.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg

G

Four McGlynn

11.3 ppg, 2.0 apg

F

Karviar Shepherd

10.0 ppg, 6.7 rpg

G

Jared Terrell

13.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg

Here are other game notes, courtesy of GoFrogs.com:

  • TCU had won 20-straight non-conference games dating back to 2013-14 prior to falling to SDSU.
  • TCU is 34-7 when leading at the half under head coach Trent Johnson.
  • TCU has held 30 opponents to 59 points or less under Trent Johnson.
  • TCU is 19-6 all-time under Trent Johnson during the month of November.
  • TCU ranks No. 15 in NCAA in blocks per game, averaging 7.3 a contest.
  • TCU posted the 11th most free throws made in school history in its season-opener with 36.
  • TCU returns two starters from a year ago in Chris Washburn and Karviar Shepherd.
  • Washburn and Shepherd are TCU's captains this season.
  • Vladimir Brodziansky was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Week last week.
  • Brodziansky joins former Frog Trey Zeigler as the only TCU player to earn the honor under Trent Johnson.
  • Shepherd scored his 500th career point last Thursday night against Houston Baptist.
  • Devonta Abron, the lone senior this season, scored a career-high 19 points against HBU.
  • Abron followed it up with a season-high 12 rebounds against South Dakota State.