Fort Worth, TX - The Frogs earned a season-defining win on Monday night as they toppled No. 7 West Virginia 82-73. Alex Robinson led the way for TCU, with 17 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds. Vladimir Brodziansky recorded a double-double, scoring 14 points and pulling down 10 rebounds, while Kenrich Williams scored nine points and recorded 14 rebounds.
Jamie Dixon’s emotion was palpable after the win. “The players, obviously, I’m happy for. We’ve lost so many of these close games, at home, with big crowds, and we just couldn’t get it done. So for our guys, I am excited, but for our fans, I think I am even more excited. Our fans, our student section, has been terrific, so I am just kind of overwhelmed right now.”
The win is huge for a number of reasons. First, a top-10 win like this is something the selection committee will look at when making their decisions come March. Second, a win like this can create serious momentum for a team, and the Frogs were in need of some momentum after a sloppy loss to Kansas State on Saturday afternoon. Not to mention, TCU had just fallen out of the Top 25, and it looked like their season was starting to slip. But Alex Robinson and the Horned Frogs weren’t worried about that.
“To be honest with you, we didn’t know what we were ranked. We just knew that this was a big game, that we lost our last one, and didn’t play very well. We knew we needed to match their physicality, and I felt like we did that today.”
Desmond Bane scored 15 points for TCU, Kouat Noi dropped 13 (before getting ejected), and Shawn Olden went 3-3 from deep on the night.
“Desmond is huge for us. We know he can get it going offensively at any time. (Shawn), we see him in practice every day, so we knew his time was coming. He stepped in and did a great job tonight, hit some big shots for us as well,” Williams said.
“When Jaylen went out, Shawn got an opportunity to step up, and he definitely made an impact today. From the first game (until tonight) you saw him gradually step up,” Robinson added.
Overall, TCU shot 42.4% from the field and out-rebounded West Virginia 46-40. The Frogs also turned the ball over 16 times, which isn’t a terrible number when you consider how proficient the Mountaineers are at forcing opponents into mistakes.
Jevon Carter was one of five Mountaineers in double-digit scoring for the night, leading the way with 16 points. He fouled out in the waning moments of the game as West Virginia tried to foul their way back into the contest.
TCU gets four full days to rest up and prepare for their next game now, after playing three games in the past six days.
The Scholly was rocking out of the gate, even after West Virginia jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead. TCU would get settled quickly, and would pull even in the next few minutes. As he has done so often lately, Kouat Noi gave TCU a spark off the bench, drilling three three-point shots to help the Frogs move out to a 16-9 lead.
The Frogs would hold the lead for the next few minutes, until West Virginia tied things at 20-20, and moved ahead after a three-pointer. Those five points would start an 11-3 run for West Virginia, giving them a 31-24 lead.
TCU would respond with an 11-0 run of their own, though, led by Desmond Bane, who scored two baskets in transition, one a two handed slam, the other a putback in transition, both of which made the decibel level in the Scholly increase dramatically.
The Frogs run would carry them almost all the way to halftime. Two free throws by West Virginia made it a two point game, 35-33, which would ultimately be the halftime score.
There was a brief moment though, where TCU thought the lead would be extended. With just three seconds remaining in the half, Alex Robinson took the inbounds pass and dribbled it all the way to the “T” in the center-court logo before launching a shot. The three went in, making the crowd explode again, but after review the shot was waved off.
The Frogs wouldn’t slow down in the second half, as Desmond Bane helped TCU open up a 47-34 lead quickly. Bane scored eight points in the midst of TCU’s run, as the sophomore continued his hot finish to the first half.
The Frogs would maintain a double-digit lead for the majority of the half, but that didn’t mean the game was without it’s moments of heightened emotions.
With TCU up 54-39, and the Frogs looking to move the ball in transition, Noi appeared to get tangled up with a West Virginia player, and he was whistled for a foul. West grabbed Noi’s arm as they ran down the court, and Noi responded by shoving West. Upon further review, Noi was ejected from the game, as TCU fans booed heartily, but Noi’s teammates would respond with more hustle and great play.
Quickly after Noi’s ejection, Shawn Olden was found open in the corner once again, and he drilled another three to give TCU a 57-40 lead.
TCU would extend their lead to 63-43 in the next few minutes, as West Virginia continued to struggle mightily on the offensive end, and TCU outhustled the Mountaineers for rebounds and loose balls. Everything seemed to be coming up gold for TCU, who couldn’t miss, while West Virginia couldn’t buy a bucket.
West Virginia wouldn’t go quietly, though. With TCU leading 68-48, and just over four minutes to go, the Mountaineers would go on an 11-1 run to pull within 10 with 2:07 left in the game. A free throw tacked on for WVU would give TCU just a 69-60 lead, with 1:51 remaining in the game.
Fortunately, the Frogs would make enough free throws to keep a comfortable lead in the waning minutes of the game, and TCU would hold on to win.
“Beating a top ten team, at home, it’s going to give us confidence going into the next game and the rest of the way,” Williams said.
The win moves TCU to 15-5 on the season, and 3-5 in Big 12 play. The Frogs now head up to Nashville for their final non-conference game of the regular season, where they’ll face Vanderbilt on Saturday afternoon.
Dixon’s pregame message isn’t likely to change much this season. “This is the story. We’ve lost some close games, we have had a tough stretch here where we haven’t finished off some games. But we are 21 in the RPI, we’ve got Big Monday coming in, and if you told me a year and a half ago that’s where we were going to be on January 22nd, I would have said no way. Yeah, we have lost a lot of close games, but you’ve done a tremendous amount this year (to get where we are). Know that we are good, now go play like it.”