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Vanderbilt 81, TCU 78: Frogs defense struggles in bad loss

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TCU lost a game that seriously hurts their NCAA tournament resume.

NCAA Basketball: Texas Christian at Vanderbilt Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Nashville, Tennessee - TCU dropped a game they had no business losing on Saturday afternoon, as they fell to the 7-13 Vanderbilt Commodores 81-78. TCU’s defense struggled mightily, and they couldn’t get a rebound late, in what is by far the most disappointing loss of the season to date.

The loss negates TCU’s big win over West Virginia from last Monday, and puts a huge blemish on the Frogs’ resume. Not to mention, it continues the trend of TCU losing close games. All six of their losses have come by five points or less.

“I see that we shot 56% and outrebounded them by 15, it’s hard to lose a game when you do those things,” Jamie Dixon said after the game. “We’ve got to do things better.”

Vanderbilt, a team that has shot 42% from the floor for the season, shot 52.5% from the floor, and 44% from three on Saturday, as they constantly held a lead against the Frogs throughout the game.

When asked about defensive strategy for this game, Dixon commented, “Well we didn’t even follow it so I’m not sure it’s relevant.” Later, Dixon admitted, “We’re not very good defensively.”

Riley LaChance scored 24 points for Vanderbilt, while Jeff Roberson added 20, as Vanderbilt recorded its first win over a Top 50 KenPom team this season. Coming into the game Vanderbilt was No. 102 in KenPom, 65 spots worse than any other team TCU had lost to this season.

Kenrich Williams led five Frogs in double-digit scoring, with 17 points to go with nine rebounds. Vladimir Brodziansky added 15, Alex Robinson scored 13 to go with nine assists, while Desmond Bane and Kouat Noi scored 12 and 11 points, respectively.

TCU won on the boards, outrebounding Vanderbilt 36-21, but they couldn’t get a rebound in the final seconds when it mattered most. The Frogs did not attempt a free throw in the game.

It should be noted that TCU had just seven scholarship players available for the game, as Ahmed Hamdy sat with an illness, but it shouldn’t have mattered against a team like Vanderbilt. Dixon did note that Hamdy should be back and ready to go Tuesday against Oklahoma State.

TCU’s defense once again lagged out of the gate, as Vanderbilt opened up an 11-2 lead in the first few minutes on Saturday afternoon. TCU’s offense, fortunately, would be able to keep pace with Vanderbilt for most of the half, keeping the Frogs in the game despite their abysmal defensive effort.

Seven points early from Vladimir Brodziansky, bolstered by six points from Kenrich Williams and four more from Desmond Bane, boosted TCU on an 11-0 run to take the lead midway through the first half, 21-16, forcing a Vandy to call a timeout.

Vanderbilt came out of the timeout, and immediately went on another 11-2 run, identical to their run to open the game. Jeff Roberson and Riley LaChance combined to score 18 points in the first 13 minutes of the game for the Commodores, as they took a 27-23 lead and forced a TCU timeout with 7:07 left in the half.

TCU’s defense which has been continually called into question this season, continued to give up open three after open three to the Commodores, who haven’t exactly been known for offense this season.

Two more threes for Vanderbilt, though, would force another TCU timeout at the 5:19 mark of the first half, as TCU found themselves down 35-26. The Frogs would battle back, again, thanks to some great offense from Vlad, Kenrich, and Robinson, but defensively TCU still couldn’t do anything to stop Vanderbilt.

Thus, TCU found themselves down 43-40 at halftime, despite shooting 57.6% form the floor in the first half. Meanwhile, a Vanderbilt team that averages 70.8 points per game on 42.1% shooting from the floor scored 43 points on 54.3% shooting in the first half. The Commodores also shot over 42% from deep in the first half, knocking down six of their 14 attempted threes.

The Frogs would start the second half on a better note, for a moment at least, as they would take a quick 44-43 lead that forced a Vanderbilt timeout just 50 seconds into the half. A quick 7-0 for Vandy out of the timeout would help them reclaim the lead, 50-44.

Vanderbilt would continue to get good looks, as they led 53-49 with 15:42 left in the game. At that point, TCU’s offense was still shooting over 56% from the floor, but they couldn’t get a stop on the other end.

The Dores continued to get open looks, and they continued to kill TCU from all over the floor. Vanderbilt’s 9th made three pointer of the game gave them a 61-52 lead with 14:03 remaining in the game.

Fortunately, Kouat Noi made it his mission to keep the Frogs close, as his third made three of the half pulled TCU back to within six. Another basket from LeChance, followed by a Noi missed three, would see TCU down eight with 11:30 left in the half, however.

Over the next three minutes TCU would battle back again, after a few defensive stops led to Shawn Olden threes, and TCU was down 68-65 with 8:35 left. Two Vanderbilt free throws would get them to their game average for points (70) with more than eight minutes left in the game, but a Kenrich Williams three would bring the Frogs to within two points at the under-8 media timeout.

Vanderbilt would extend their lead back to six thanks to sloppy play from the Frogs on both ends of the floor, but an Alex Robinson finish at the basket would get TCU to within four, 74-70, with just under six minutes left in the game.

Desmond Bane would cut the deficit to two again, with a nice drive to the rim, but Vandy would respond by hitting another open jumper.

TCU would finally pull even after a Vlad jumper, followed by a great finish at the rim for Robinson, tied things up at 76. Unfortunetly, more transition defense woes led to a wide open three for Vanderbilt, who drilled it. A Vlad bucket would cut TCU’s deficit to one at 79-78 with under a minute left, and Vandy would call a timeout with 40 seconds left.

TCU played a solid defensive possession out of the timeout, but three chances at a rebound weren’t enough, and Vanderbilt pulled down the board. Noi was forced to foul Riley LaChance with 10.8 seconds left, and he would make both, giving Vandy an 81-78 lead.

Noi would miss a three at the buzzer, and TCU would fall to 15-6 on the season. There’s no way around it - this is a bad, bad loss for the Frogs. To this point, TCU didn’t have any bad losses on their resume, while a big win over West Virginia had them comfortably “in” in everyone’s bracket projections. A loss like this puts a huge blemish on the Frogs’ resume.

The good news is that TCU can make up for this loss thanks to being in the Big 12, but they’ll need to start turning some of these close losses into wins. TCU’s next five games are at Oklahoma State, vs. Texas Tech, at Kansas, vs. Texas, and at West Virginia.