TCU’s bubble is precariously close to popping, as the Frogs let an opportunity for a statement win slip away down the stretch at Hilton Coliseum.
Though the Frogs’ numbers on the road against Iowa State were nearly the same as in their victory at home, the result was starkly different, as TCU fell by 13 in the home of Hilton Magic, 84-71. For the Cyclones, it was their fourth win in five games, their ninth in Big 12 play, and a victory that moved them into a three way tie for second place in the conference with Baylor and WVU.
The Frogs actually shot the ball well, hitting on 52.7% from the floor and connecting on 8-18 attempts from behind the arc. Where they were hurt was from the free throw line, where they took only eight attempts to ISU’s 21, and in the turnover department, a battle they lost 19-14. Though I wasn’t able to watch the game start to finish, what I did see was solid ball movement - 14 assists on 29 made field goals is a decent ratio - improvement from Vlad in handling the double team, and an attacking mentality from the guards, that just came a little too late.
TCU has struggled in the second half of conference play as opponents have keyed in on keeping Vladimir Brodziansky from beating them; sending a delayed double team or being physical with him to the point of keeping him off of his preferred spots in the paint has messed with his rhythm and really impacted the entire team and the way they run the offense. While it’s clearly something being addressed in practice, Coach Dixon hasn’t quite figured out how to unlock the key to getting the offense moving back towards the basket, though it’s improved each game in round two. He has gone more to his bench, playing more small ball and relying on Chris Washburn and Brandon Parrish to try and give the offense a burst. Both struggled this afternoon in a tough road environment - Parrish put up zeroes across the board and Wash had four turnovers, one rebound, and just three points - but it has changed the pace of the game and the Frogs did shoot better overall. For TCU to get back to their winning ways, they need to find a way to get to the basket earlier in the shot clock and force the action defensively with more aggressive play from their guards. Eight free throw attempts won’t win you a lot of games in the Big 12, or anywhere.
Each of the Frogs’ five starters scored in double-digits Saturday, the kind of balanced attack we saw in the early goings of the season and had been missing over the last several weeks. Robinson was great early and late on his way to a 16 point, eight assist day, and Jaylen Fisher looked like a far more complete offensive player against one of the best players in the country - ISU’s Monte Morris - as he poured in 11 and turned the ball over only twice. Vlad went for 11 and seven and JD Miller ten and six, but in a rare turn of events Kenrich Williams was a non-factor on the boards, pulling in only two, but did add ten points before fouling out late. Bane came on late with a great stretch run to score seven, and he added five boards in limited minutes. In all, ten players saw the floor.
Iowa State was paced by Naz Long’s 25 - he was a monster from behind the arc, draining 7/12 attempts. Morris and Deonte Burton were also too much to handle for TCU, pouring in 18 a piece and accounting for an 11/12 day from the free throw line between them. The Frogs seemed a step slow on defense all day, leading to a lot of cheap fouls and a lot of good looks from three - and the Cyclones made the most of them, draining 12 in 25 attempts. This win all but seals their Dance Bid, not that it was much in question, but now they can play for a high seed and position themselves for an extended run.
For TCU, the loss drops them to 6-8 in conference and 17-10 overall; though this does not sound a death knell on their post-season hopes, it makes a March Madness bid that much tougher to obtain - the Frogs probably need to win three out of four against Kansas (away), WVU (home), KSU (home), and OU (away) to feel confident about their chances. The home date with the second-place Mountaineers gives them a statement win opportunity that could be a huge difference maker come selection Sunday.
The Frogs head to Phog Allen Wednesday, where no visiting teams are allowed to win the rest of the season, with the hope to pull off a miracle. But, whether or not they can steal a win on the road, they will need your support Saturday at the Schollie against a very good, but beatable, Mountaineer team. I highly recommend you make it a TCU Double Header Day: Frogs and Eers in the Schollie at 1:00pm, TCU Baseball against a really good ASU team at Lupton at 4:00pm. I’ll be there - will you?