It was a slow start, fitting of a game played just days before Christmas, with the campus a virtual ghost town and the arena as empty as you would expect in such circumstances. One wouldn’t blame the players or coaches for looking ahead to the matchup looming with Big 12 powerhouse Kansas, as the Jayhawks will make their way to Fort Worth for the first game of conference play next week, especially with a sub-.500 Bradley Braves squad on the schedule.
And through the first four minutes or so of play, that appeared to be the case for both teams - as neither could find the bottom of the net with any consistency leading to a paltry 4-2 lead for the Frogs at the first TV timeout. But the Frogs would wake up after the break, as Brandon Parrish caught fire from behind the arc, draining three straight treys to give TCU a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. When Parrish took a seat due to foul trouble, Kenrich Williams took over, pouring in seven points to go along with seven rebounds (including five offensive), a steal, and an assist - before the halftime buzzer.
Meanwhile, the TCU defense, showing some full court pressure to manufacture some tempo and intensity, forced Bradley into 12 first half turnovers leading to 20 points and giving the Frogs some breathing room even as the Braves started to heat things up on their offensive end. Big two handed jams by Desmond Bane and Karviar Shepherd set the tone, leading to a 38-20 halftime lead for Jamie Dixon’s team.
Coming out of the half, the Frogs were sluggish yet again, missing their first five shots from the field and allowing the Braves to cut the lead to 12. As Bradley locked down the paint on D, keeping the TCU guards from penetrating and setting up easy looks for their teammates, the Frogs looked to the outside, with Kenrich Williams knocking down a three and Shepherd draining a long deuce a series later to stretch the lead back to 19 with less than 15 minutes to play. Shep, who played one of his better games of the season, finished the night with nine points, eight rebounds, a pair of steals, and a block coming off the bench for Vladimir Brodziansky, who struggled throughout the game.
Despite seeming a step slow all night, the TCU defense did enough to keep the Braves at bay, and ultimately turned in a solid performance, holding Bradley to just 42 points on 35% shooting. The Frogs dominated the glass, out-rebounding their opponent 46-34, and hauling in 19 of those on the offensive glass. It was one of the oddest destructions of a team I can remember, as it never seemed TCU was playing great, nor that the Braves were playing terrible, but by the end of the night it was an utter and complete blowout.
14 players played and 12 scored in a night where Dixon was able to go deep into his bench and use his full complement of guys. With only two players in double digits - Desmond Bane with a game high 18 (to go with seven rebounds and three assists) and Kenrich Williams with ten - it was another balanced attack in a season full of them. TCU forced 18 turnovers in the game and shot 74% from the free throw line, as they showcased a full court press that was very effective in taking Bradley out of their rhythm and forcing them to get late into the shot clock.
The Frogs finish their pre-season schedule with an 11-1 mark, with their only loss coming against SMU on the road. And while they have looked good at times, and downright impressive at others, it’s a whole new ball game starting a week from Friday with Big 12 play and the Kansas Jayhawks. But, there is certainly reason to hope, as this team has the pieces to compete when the games start to truly matter.