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TCU Basketball Preview: Indiana State

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After a week off, the Frogs face off against the home of Larry Bird

TCU Basketball vs USC | Staples Center, LA | December 7, 2018
TCU Basketball vs USC | Staples Center, LA | December 7, 2018
Melissa Triebwasser

Game Time: 4:00 PM CST | Location: Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena – Fort Worth, TX | TV: ESPNU | Series: Indiana State leads 1-0 | Game Line: TCU -14.5

The TCU Horned Frogs (7-1) are back after an extended break, and will take on the Indiana State Sycamores (6-2) on Sunday afternoon. The Frogs got finals week off after a demolition of USC in Los Angeles a week ago. Alex Robinson led the way in the 96-61 blowout, scoring 15 points and dishing out 8 assists. Kevin Samuel had a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds in only 15 minutes. Most of the team scored in double figures, including Jaylen Fisher (15), JD Miller (14), Kouat Noi (14), and Desmond Bane (11). It was a complete blowout from start to finish, and the Frogs dominated the inside against the stout USC frontline. The win was the latest in a string of blowouts that have followed the Frogs’ lone loss to Lipscomb a month ago.

The Sycamores are coming off a closer than expected win against Division II opponent Truman State, 77-69. Tyreke Key was the star for Indiana State, scoring 26 points on 11/15 shooting. Jordan Barnes also had a solid game, scoring 20 points and dishing out 9 assists. De’Avion Washington and Allante Holston joined Key and Barnes in double figures, with 12 and 10 points respectively. The Sycamores continued their hot shooting from three, nailing 8/15. Indiana State has two wins over lower than Division I competition, but also sport a nice win over Western Kentucky. They lost games against Ball State and North Texas, who along with WKU, form their top three opponents so far this season.

Barnes is the team’s top player, and was named to second team all conference a season ago. He’s shooting a crazy 51% from three, while also functioning as the team’s main distributor. He is a diminutive 5’11, but crashes the glass hard for his size and does the little things right that lead to victory. Key forms the second half of the dynamic backcourt duo, and is also shooting an insane percentage this season (58/65/76 splits). He had a solid freshman season a year ago, and has taken the next step this season as a distributor. Key is also tied for the team lead in rebounding, which is surprising considering his status as a 6’2 shooting guard. Senior Devin Thomas is not having the same caliber of season that Key or Barnes are having, but he leads the team in rebounding and has started every game. Thomas logs a good deal of minutes, a major role upgrade over last season, and rotates between the four and five. North Texas transfer Holston is a low usage player whose 10 points last outing were a season high. He plays guard but stands at 6’7, helping the length of a defense that sports two guards below 6’2. Senior Emondre Rickman starts in the middle, and anchors the Sycamore defense. He has been one of the top shot blockers in the country this season, and leads the team in rebounding rate. He’s nothing close to an offensive weapon, shooting only 39% from the floor, but is a key part in ISU playing to their full potential.

Clayton Hughes is the team’s top reserve, but he missed the last game due to an ankle injury. If he plays, that will be a huge spark for the Sycamores, considering he’s been a spot starter and is third on the team in scoring. He can score from all over the court, sporting a 54% field goal percentage (57% from three), but does have a problem with fouling too often. Bronson Kessinger will see time as a backup big man. He’s struggled a bit to start the season, especially with scoring the ball at a halfway efficient rate, but in the past has shown to at least be decent at boarding. Washington had by far the best game of his freshman season last time out, as he only has 18 points in his other 7 games combined. He’s proven to be a pest on defense already, sporting a healthy steal rate, and profiles as a future breakout star for the Sycamores. Whether or not that potential will be realized on Sunday remains to be seen. Speaking of freshmen, Blake Brinkmeyer will see time behind Kessinger. He only averaged 4 points per game in high school, so it’s fair to say his best attributes will involve rebounding and defense. Finally, expect to see freshman Tyeshon Martin out there, although he uses so few of the Sycamore possessions that I can’t really get a read on what his strengths or weaknesses are at this point in his career.

One notable stat pops out when you look at Indiana State’s stat sheet: they are the top three point shooting team in the country at 48.8%. This number seems intimidating, and it is certainly something to be aware of, but the Sycamores don’t take a ton of threes, and only around a quarter of their points come from behind the line (270th rank in D1). They rank third to last in percent of field goals that are three pointers as well. The real takeaway is that they love to get to the free throw line and do their damage there. Key and Barnes are particularly skilled at getting to the stripe, which explains how they are the dominant players in the offense. This elite three point shooting and volume from the free throw line helps mask their horrific display from two, where they shoot a dreadful 43% (326th in the nation). While their offense is unique, it is really the Sycamore defense that drives their wins. They are top 75 in every opponent shooting category, and they’ll work hard on that end to bother opponents. They allow a ton of offensive rebounds, perhaps good news for Kevin Samuel, but overall have proven a tough nut to crack for most teams.

Three Things to Look For

Contain Key and Barnes

The Sycamores’ top two players are far and away the top options and will make or break the whole game. A Rob, Fisher, and Kendric Davis will all need to step up and do their part to outduel such a talented backcourt. I don’t think ISU has seen a group of guards this good so far this season, so I like TCU’s chances in this category.

Force the Three

Indiana State may shoot a huge percentage from three, but it isn’t sustainable in the long run. They pick their spots from long range, and the Frogs need to make them uncomfortable out there. I have complete confidence that the Frogs’ elite interior defense can handle such a terrible inside attack, but they need to be complete and also defend the three well.

Stay Out of Foul Trouble

This goes for Samuel and Yuat Alok, who will be challenged at the rim by Indiana State’s guards. One way that ISU could weaken the Frogs’ defense is by getting those giants out of the game, and both have already struggled a bit with foul trouble to this point in the season. Hopefully Angus McWilliam will also be available, but regardless, the Frogs need to be careful in order to keep their defense stout.

Prediction

Indiana State is a good team, in fact, this is probably their best team in several years. Any team that can shoot that well from three is going to worry me a bit. That being said, the Frogs are on a tear right now, and they match up way too well with the Sycamores for me to pick any sort of upset. ISU hasn’t seen a team like TCU so far this season, and the Frogs are simply superior in every facet of the game.

The easy pick to click is Alex Robinson at this point, and I am interested to see him and Jaylen match up with Key and Barnes. Additionally, Kaden Archie is right on the precipice of having a major breakout game, and I think he can exploit the lack of athleticism on the wing for Indiana State. Frogs control this one start to finish, and get ready to head out to Hawaii before Christmas.

Prediction: TCU 85, Indiana State 70

Here are the game notes, courtesy of GoFrogs.com:

  • After finals week, TCU returns to action Sunday against Indiana State at 4 p.m. on ESPNU. The game is the second of a TCU doubleheader as its women’s team hosts Southern at noon.
  • Junior guard Jaylen Fisher has been on fire in his last four games shooting 18-of-36 from 3-point range and averaging 14.0 points. Fisher missed the first three games this season due to a knee injury.
  • Senior guard Alex Robinson leads the nation with 9.0 assists per game. In his last game out against USC, Robinson went over 1,000 points for his career, which started at Texas A&M. Robinson was Preseason Honorable Mention All-Big 12 and on the watch list for the Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year award.
  • Redshirt freshman center Kevin Samuel is coming off his third double-double of the season with 10 points and 13 rebounds. He leads the Big 12 in field goal percentage at 76.9 percent.
  • Sophomore guard Kouat Noi has averaged 17.3 points over the last four games. His 14.6 points per game average rank second on the team.
  • The Horned Frogs lead the nation with 21.4 assists per game. TCU is one of three teams that rank top 20 nationally in field goal percentage (16th) and field goal percentage defense (15th).
  • For just the second time in school history and the first time since prior to the 1998-99 season, TCU begun a season ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 at No. 21. The Frogs were ranked for three-straight weeks to begin the season, topping out at No. 18, and are currently receiving votes in both polls.