If you are a relative newcomer to TCU Basketball fandom, say, in the last 20 years or so, then the Frogs’ January matchup against WVU as part of ESPN’s Big Monday was unlike anything you have ever seen in Fort Worth.
Driving up to the arena, it was obvious by the time you got to University that this game was BIG. The parking lots were full, people were tailgating, and there were spotlights glaring into the sky that could be seen from miles away. Projections on the side of the arena, food trucks parked outside of it (In N Out Burger, natch), and scalpers galore were just a taste of the spectacle that awaited patrons inside the stadium.
It would not disappoint.
There were a lot of big moments in the game that made it worthy on being nominated for “Game of the Year”, but a handful stand out, six months later. The first came early, just a few minutes into the first half, when Kenny Hustle dunked all over the Mountaineers highly-touted defense on an baseline out of bounds play:
That moment absolutely ignited the crowd in a way I had never seen in the Schollmaier, or its predecessor.
It was a tight game throughout the first half, but the Frogs took a 20-18 lead as Vladimir Brodziansky found Kouat Noi diving through the line for a two-handed jam. The biggest play of the first half, though, was one that didn’t count; after the Eers made a pair of free throws with just three seconds remaining to give them a two point lead going into the break, Alex Robinson heaved one up from half court at the buzzer, and the path was true. After review, the points were taken off the board, meaning TCU still trailed, but momentum was clearly in the hands of the Horned Frogs.
Desmond Bane’s personal eight point run five minutes into the second half introduced him to a national audience and gave the Frogs a 13 point cushion. WVU would never get closer than nine from that point on.
Though we thought the crowd couldn’t get louder after Kenny Hustle’s dunk on Bender, we would be proven wrong, when things got a little testy. After Chase Harler missed a three for the Mountaineers, Lamont West grabbed Kouat Noi’s hand as he was breaking out in transition. Noi, understandably upset, turned around and shoved West in the chest, and he tumbled to the ground, Neymar-style. Noi was tossed after a video review, and despite being comfortably in front, it ignited the players and the crowd - primarily Shawn Olden, who drained a pair of threes down the stretch.
TCU defeated a top ten West Virginia team 82-73 in front of a purple-packed crowd of 7,368. But not only did the Frogs get a much-need Big 12 win against a marquee opponent, they proved that they belonged - from a talent standpoint, AND, a showing out on the national stage standpoint. It was a huge moment for TCU Basketball, who announced themselves as a player in more ways than one. It was a seminal moment from a program on the cusp of making the NCAA Tournament. And it was a coming out party for Alex Robinson and Desmond Bane, who had massive games in front of a huge audience.
Schools like TCU don’t get the national stage often... football earned it through a decade of success, baseball through five College World Series appearances. Basketball earned it with a gritty win over a really good team on Big Monday.
TCU’s victory over West Virginia in basketball is our first nominee for 2017-2018 TCU Athletics game of the year. We will hold a poll at the end of the series for you to vote for your favorite. Feel free to nominate your own choices in the comments, on twitter, or via facebook!