Game Time: 5:00pm CST | Location: Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena - Fort Worth, TX | TV: ESPNU | Series: Auburn Leads 2-1 | Game Line: TCU -9.5
After falling on Monday night in Stillwater, the Frogs had a few nights off to rest up coming into tonight’s tilt with Auburn. Today is the final non-conference game for TCU and is part of the 4th annual Big 12/SEC Challenge.
The Frogs are 11-1 in non-conference so far. They have two wins over Washington from the Pac-12, but their best non-conference win came against Illinois State, who is now 17-4 overall and ranked #34 in the RPI (through games on January 26th), two spots ahead of TCU.
TCU comes into today looking to put an end to a 3-game losing streak over the past week and a half. Most recently, the Frogs fell 89-76 to Oklahoma State on the road in a game that was tightly contested until the final five minutes. Ultimately, Jawun Evans and Jeffrey Carroll took over for the Cowboys and put the game away. TCU tied the game multiple times in the second half but never led in the game.
Despite the loss, Kenrich Williams and Vladimir Brodziansky put together masterful performances yet again. Kenny Hustle finished the game with a double-double, dropping in 20 points and pulling down 12 rebounds. He also only turned the ball over once. Vlad also scored 20 for the Frogs, including going 9/10 from the free throw line. He knocked down another three, his 4th-straight game making one.
As a team, TCU did a good job hustling, out-rebounding the Cowboys 35-30, including a 13-5 advantage on the offensive glass. However, they struggled to force turnovers and had a bad night shooting the ball. The Frogs shot 39.3% from the field, which dropped to 23.1% beyond the arc. On the bright side, TCU was fantastic at the free throw line, where they made 91.7%.
Now, TCU will have to turn their attention to winning another non-conference game to boost their resume. Auburn comes into today’s game at 13-7 overall and 3-5 in SEC play, which puts them in a tie for 9th in the conference. They have two wins over Big 12 teams, Texas Tech and Oklahoma, already, and are ranked #71 in the RPI. As a team, Auburn can score with anybody, but their defense is ranked 275th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 76.4 points per game.
The Tigers come into today’s matchup after falling 98-69 at #23 South Carolina on Tuesday night. They went into halftime down 48-27 and were never able to get within fewer than 18 points again. In that game, Auburn turned the ball over 19 times and only shot 35.6% from the field. They were even worse from deep, where they shot an abysmal 14.3%.
The Tigers are led by a trio of star freshmen, including Mustapha Heron, who was the first ever 5-star basketball signee for Auburn. Heron leads the team in scoring with 15.4 points per game and in rebounds, with 6.1 per game. He is also the 2nd-best free throw shooter on the team, knocking down 75.6%. Heron has good size for a guard at 6’5”, so I expect Kenrich to be in charge of shutting him down.
The next freshman to keep an eye on is guard Jared Harper. Harper is 2nd on the team in scoring with 12.4 points per game and leads the team in assists with 2.8 per game. Harper also has active hands on defense, evidenced by his 1.4 steals per game. It’ll be up to either Alex Robinson or Jaylen Fished most likely to keep him in check.
Lastly, freshman forward Danjel Purifoy will also need to be locked in on by the Frogs. Purifoy is also averaging 12.4 points per game and is 2nd on the team in rebounding with 5.4 boards per game. He has not been as great over the past couple games, but he is still working his way back from an ankle injury. At 6’7”, Purifoy will likely be defended by Brandon Parrish or JD Miller, whoever Dixon chooses to start in today’s game.
Three Things to Watch:
1 - Starting Off Strong
One thing that has hurt the Frogs over the past three games has been getting out of the gates too slowly. In all three games, which were all losses, TCU has struggled to come out firing on offense, which has forced them to play from behind for a majority of the games. Although I do not think Auburn is as strong as any of the past three teams the Frogs have faced, they cannot let the Tigers come in and get an early lead. TCU could possibly put this game away early, but only if they come out excited and ready to go.
2 - Finishing Strong
The middle 30 minutes of the game have been great for the Frogs. They have overcome slow starts and managed to keep themselves in games by competing and figuring things out in the middle of the game. However, they have struggled during the last 5 minutes of each of the past three games. They had opportunities to win each of the prior three, but have either gone cold or rushed shots late. Hopefully the Frogs will be well ahead at this point, but if it’s a tight game, TCU will need to figure out how to finish.
3 - Schollmaier Atmosphere
TCU is a much-improved team this season and the buzz has resulted in more and more fans showing up and getting involved in home games. Last Saturday’s night against Baylor had an electric crowd that helped carry the Frogs throughout the game. Although the Frogs couldn’t come away with the win, the atmosphere was fantastic. If fans show up tomorrow and can replicate the energy from a week ago, it could fuel some TCU runs and a blowout victory.
A full four days off should be plenty for the Frogs to rest up and find their shooting stroke. I expect TCU to come out firing against Auburn and ready to come away with a win. The team most likely understands the importance of this game as it pertains to March and should be well-prepared. The senior leaders of this team will step up and find a way to win this game, considering they are 3-0 in Big 12/SEC Challenge games. Kenrich and Vlad should once again dominate the boards and handle the majority of the scoring, but we might see players like Alex Robinson find their form again. Ultimately, I think TCU walks away with a comfortable win.
Score Prediction: TCU 87, Auburn 68
Here are some additional game notes, courtesy of GoFrogs.com:
- Both coaching staffs will be wearing sneakers for Coaches vs. Cancer Suits And Sneakers Week.
- Only one of TCU's six losses have come to teams outside the top 50 RPI (Texas Tech at 78).
- TCU's NCAA RPI is 36.
- TCU is 14-3 against unranked opponents.
- The Frogs are 11-2 at home this season and 2-4 on the road.
- TCU is 13-3 when outrebounding its opponent with every loss coming in its last three games.
- TCU is 12-1 when leading at halftime (Baylor).
- TCU is 9-1 when forcing more turnovers than it commits (Baylor).
- TCU currently ranks No. 31 in the NCAA in assists (16.6).
- Kenrich Williams ranks No. 1 in the Big 12 with 9.8 rebounds per game.
- Williams is averaging a double-double, 14.2 points and 10.6 rebounds, over the last five games.
- Williams ranks No. 17 in the NCAA and No. 1 in the Big 12 in offensive rebounds with a 3.6 average on the season.
- Brandon Parrish is a 2017 Allstate NABC Good Works Team® nominee.
- Parrish needs to play in only three more games to move into the top-10 all-time in games played in school history.
- Parrish has made at least one 3-pointer in nine of his last 12 games.
- Karviar Shepherd is No. 6 all-time in career starts at TCU with 96. He played in his 100th game against Arkansas State
- Shepherd has tallied 602 career rebounds and needs 98 to become only the 10th player all-time to capture 700 boards.
- Alex Robinson has led TCU in assists 13 times this season.
- Vladimir Brodziansky ranks second in the Big 12 and 24th nationally with 2.4 blocks per game.