It’s been a bad two weeks for TCU Basketball, as a crucial stretch of games ended in a four game skid, likely ending their outside chances to remain on the NCAA bubble near the mid-point of conference play. With a chance to catch their breath in the midst of the brutal Big 12, the Frogs welcomed in an Auburn team that was struggling as well, but were dominated in the paint throughout a lackluster performance by the home team.
The game opened with an up and down feel, as both teams game out of the gate hot. TCU, who had struggled mightily from deep over the course of the last two weeks, hit their first three of the game, as Kenrich Williams drained one from the wing on the Frogs’ first possession. After hitting two of their first four from long range, the Frogs cooled off considerably as they settled for jumper after jumper, falling behind by as many as six as Auburn continually converted their chances on the other end. But after the second media time out, and apparently some strong words from a Jamie Dixon regards to shot selection, TCU got back to what they do best - finding Vladimir Brodziansky in the paint and letting him crush the hopes and dreams of a defense. Vlad went on a personal 6-0 run, which could have been even more had he not been awful from the free throw line over that stretch (1-5). But his success opened up the offense for the guards, allowing JD Miller, Desmond Bane, and Alex Robinson to get going - even with Jaylen Fisher on the bench due to foul trouble.
After abysmal shooting performances in their last three games, TCU’s hot start from the field (61.3%) was good to see - even though they continued to struggle from distance (2-8) and reverted back to the early season free throw shooting woes (3-9). Thankfully, Auburn’s defense reverted as well, and there were plenty of opportunities for good looks inside, which the Frogs converted time and time again to keep things close.
The second half opened with a focus on getting the ball to Vlad, and he delivered with a trio of quick scores. But several TCU turnovers and fouls allowed the Tigers to stay in the lead early, with the quick hands of the Auburn guards gumming up the passing lanes and frustrating the Frogs.
TCU, who went six minutes without a three point attempt, tried two in a row with the game in the balance, with Bane and Fisher missing consecutively. Auburn went on to score off of both misfires, and TCU trailed by three once again, causing Dixon to take a time out. But momentum stayed with the Tigers out of the break, as they went to work on the offensive glass, earning multiple second chance opportunities and converting them into 20 total points. Auburn was great inside, scoring 56 points in the paint, many off of easy dunks as the defense was a step slow in rotating all night. The lead stretched to as many as 21 points for the Tigers, and while the Frogs would close the gap in garbage time, they were never truly in it after the second media timeout.
There are many things that can be pointed to as reason for the subpar effort - foul trouble plagued the team from the very early stages, with Fisher and Kenrich Williams - who fouled out of the game - spent significant time glued to the bench after picking up cheapies early. Players also seemed to lose confidence in their shot, with multiple players passing up wide open threes on multiple occasions, allowing the Auburn defense to drop inside and focus on Vlad and limiting guard penetration. Even if you aren’t making your shots, you can’t look scared to shoot them - that makes things far too easy for the defense. Ultimately, TCU would shoot 51% from the field and 25% from three - and most importantly, a putrid 9/20 from the free throw line - all against one of the worst defensive teams in the country.
The Frogs had four players in double figures, led by Alex Robinson’s 20. Vladimir Brodziansky had 19 points and eight rebounds, Miller 17, and Bane 12. The rest of the team combined scored 12 points - another factor in the poor performance. Auburn was led by Wiley’s game high 25, but had nine players score overall. They won the rebounding battle (38-36), the assist battle (23-20), and the steals battle (9-5). And while they didn’t play all that great overall, it was enough to beat TCU on their home floor Saturday night. The Frogs will look to stop their slide Wednesday night as they travel to Manhattan to take on the Wildcats. They’ll be back home Saturday at noon for their second round with Texas, which will also feature Kurt Thomas’ number retirement ceremony.
It’s been a tough two weeks, but don’t give up on this young team. The best is yet to come.