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TCU Basketball Preview: Texas

The Frogs look to pick up their first Big 12 win of the season tonight against a Texas team missing its most dominant force in the paint.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Game Time: 6:00pm CDT | Location: Schollmaier Arena - Fort Worth, TX
TV: ESPNU | Series: UT Leads 106-62 | Game Line: UT -2.5

TCU returns to the hardwood tonight still searching for their first Big 12 win of the season. The Frogs will have a decent chance to accomplish that feat against a Texas Longhorns team that is without its top big man. Double-double machine Cameron Ridley fractured his foot during a Christmas week practice and is sidelined indefinitely after undergoing surgery.

The senior center was second on the team in scoring with 12.7 points per game and tops in rebounding with 10.0 boards each night. Ridley had posted double-digit totals in either points or rebounds, or both, in each of his 11 games this season, including five double-double performances. The highlight of his season came on December 15 with a 19 point, 11 rebound, and nine block performance against Appalachian State.

Ridley's absence leaves the 9-5 Longhorns with some major questions about their interior presence on both sides of the court. The team's other two big men, Prince Ibeh and Shaquille Cleare, have yet to prove they can replicate Ridley's production. Ibeh enters the contest averaging 1.7 points and 4.1 rebounds while Cleare adds another 2.5 points and 2.8 boards per game. The Longhorns have suffered without Ridley's scoring and defense. The team dropped their first two contests without the big man before bouncing back to defeat Kansas State on Tuesday. Prior to his injury, Texas was outscoring their opponents by an average of 76.9-67.9, however since the injury, Texas has been outscored 70.0-66.7 on average.

Isaiah Taylor has been a scoring machine this season. The junior guard enters tonight's contest averaging 16.6 points and 4.9 assists per game, both team highs. In Texas' conference opener at Texas Tech, Taylor dropped 35 points and dished out six assists in the 82-74 defeat. Javan Felix is the team's only other double-digit scorer, as he is adding another 10.6 points per game.

Senior forward Connor Lammert has emerged as the team's leading rebounder in Ridley's absence, pulling down 5.6 boards to go along with his 6.1 points per game. Lammert has proven that he can shoot the deep ball this season, connecting on 17 of his 52 attempts from behind the arc.

Across the court, TCU enters the contest 8-6 on the year and 0-2 in Big 12 play after falling to West Virginia on Monday. As has been the case all season, the Frogs are led by their duo of high-scoring transfers. Vladimir Brodziansky continues to lead the team on the offensive end, knocking in 12.9 points per game on 59.1% shooting from the field. Fellow transfer Malique Trent isn't far behind, adding another 12.3 points to go along with his team-high 3.1 assists per game.

Chauncey Collins has re-emerged as one of the team's biggest scoring threats after recovering from a quad injury suffered last month. Over the last four games, Collins is averaging 14.3 points per contest on 41% shooting from the field. He is also lighting it up at the free throw line, connecting on 22 of his last 29 foul shots.

Karviar Shepherd is rounding into form as well, just in time to face Texas' depleted frontcourt. He has averaged 11.0 points and 9.3 rebounds in his last three contests, including a season-high 18 points against West Virginia earlier this week.  On the year, the junior forward is contributing 9.1 points and 7.0 rebounds each night. If he and Brodziansky can take advantage of Texas' size issues in the paint, the Frogs will set themselves up nicely for a win over their in-state rivals.

A victory over the Longhorns would break an ominous streak for the Frogs. Not only would a win give TCU their first Big 12 win of the season, it would mark the first triumph over UT since January 10, 1995 - the second-to-last season of the Southwest Conference. Since then, the Frogs are 0-11 against their friends from Austin.

Three Things to Watch:

1. Attack the Interior

Because of the way both teams play, the loss of Cam Ridley will be a big advantage for the Frogs. TCU has excelled at driving the ball into the lane and either putting up a shot, or drawing contact. With two foul-prone bigs in Prince Ibeh and Shaquille Cleare forced with defending the interior, the Frogs will have a solid opportunity at creating problems down low. If Karviar Shepherd and Vladimir Brodziansky can drive to the basket with authority, much like they did against West Virginia, TCU will benefit from an increase in shot attempts and/or free throw opportunities. Since Ridley's injury, the Longhorns are giving up 32.0 points per game in the paint, an increase of 7.3 points per game since he was sidelined. A major key toward success for TCU will be scoring down low.

2. Defend the Arc

Even before losing Ridley, the Longhorns have run a three-point heavy offense. Texas enters the game averaging more than 22 three-point shot attempts per game, the second highest mark in the Big 12. In fact, 38.0% of all shot attempts this season for the Longhorns have come from behind the arc, and almost 1/3 of the total points scored by UT have been via the deep ball. A strong defensive performance around the arc will be imperative for TCU tonight. The Frogs have struggled to defend the perimeter, most recently allowing West Virginia to connect on nine of their 17 three-point attempts. If the TCU defense can disrupt Texas' shooters and force them into taking bad shots, the Frogs will set themselves up nicely to compete down the stretch.

3. Get to the Line

The Frogs are coming off their best free throw shooting performance under Trent Johnson, and one of their best in program history. Against the Mountaineers, TCU shot 35/40 from the charity stripe, a ridiculous 87.5%. One area of success for this year's TCU team has been drawing fouls and hitting free throws.  The Frogs enter tonight's game 28th in the nation in free throw attempts with 385 on the year. That's an average of nearly 28 per game. In theory, even if the Frogs hit 60% of their foul shots, that's still about 17 additional points per contest. With Texas' lack of a dominant force in the paint, getting to the line will be even more important tonight.

TCU Projected Starters

Texas Projected Starters

G

Michael Williams

5.1 ppg, 2.6 apg

G

Isaish Taylor

16.6 ppg, 2.4 rpg

G

Malique Trent

12.3 ppg, 3.1 apg

G

Javan Felix

10.6 ppg, 1.9 rpg

G

Brandon Parrish

7.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg

G

Demarcus Holland

3.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg

F

Vladimir Brodziansky

12.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg

F

Connor Lammert

6.1 ppg, 5.6 apg

F

Karviar Shepherd

9.1 ppg, 7.0 rpg

C

Price Ibeh

1.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg

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

  • TCU is 40-8 when leading at the half under head coach Trent Johnson.
  • TCU has held 34 opponents to 59 points or less under Trent Johnson.
  • TCU had held two-straight opponents to under 50 points prior to league play.
  • Heading into Saturday, TCU ranks No. 98 in NCAA in scoring defense.
  • TCU returned three starters from a year ago in Chris Washburn, Kenrich Williams and Karviar Shepherd.
  • With Williams out, Washburn and Shepherd are TCU's captains this season.
  • TCU played its first 11 games without Washburn and Williams.
  • Vladimir Brodziansky was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Week following the season-opener.
  • Brodziansky ranks No. 32 in NCAA in field goal percentage on the season.
  • Michael Williams has started eight-straight games.
  • TCU's record is 5-3 since Williams was inserted into the starting lineup.
  • Williams only had two prior starts in his three-year career heading into this season.