NORMAN, OK - It hasn’t been often, for TCU Basketball, that they can say they had a winnable game on the road against a ranked team. In fact, Saturday afternoon’s loss to #23 Oklahoma was the 48th consecutive such contest that ended in defeat, running the Frogs’ all-time road record against ranked foes to a stunning 1-83.
But, the Frogs certainly had their chances against the Sooners, using hot shooting from behind the arc to run out to a six point half point lead, and hanging on - thanks mostly to Kouat Noi - through the final 20 to take a late lead. But despite Alex Robinson bouncing in a three with 16 ticks remaining, a shot that tied the game at 74, it was not time to break the streak, apparently, and Oklahoma answered with a layup with less than three ticks remaining to send TCU packing, frustrated at the missed opportunity. “We felt we could have won the game, should have won the game, but we didn’t. There are no shoulda, woulda, couldas. We just didn’t get the stops we needed to get,” coach Jamie Dixon said after the game. His team will certainly be replaying the shoulda, woulda, couldas on the short trip home - wasting a 30 point night by Kouat Noi - who was 8-12 from behind the arc, but didn’t touch the ball on the last several trips down the floor - and a rebounding advantage that was 42-36 in favor of the Frogs, yet their 17 offensive boards led to just eight second chance points. Dixon knows it. “You can’t get 17 offensive rebounds and get just eight on second chance points - it doesn’t make any sense. We have to do a better job of playing through contact.” These are the games you have to find a way to win if you want to be a contender in a conference as deep and difficult as the Big 12 is proving itself to be once again in 2019.
TCU came out stone cold in the second half despite shooting a serviceable 40% through the first 20 minutes, going 1-10 to start the stanza. That led to an 8-30 final frame, good for 26% from the field, and a final game percentage of just 34.7. That’s despite the fact that the Frogs hit on 44% of their attempts from deep, something Dixon commented “made absolutely no sense.”
Meanwhile, the Sooners kept plugging away, finishing nearly 50% of their attempts, nailing 17-25 from the line (for comparison’s sake, TCU was 12-16, leading Dixon to remark that they “couldn’t get beat from the line”), and making enough of their threes (5-15) to keep the TCU defense honest. But it was the defense, indeed, that let the Frogs down. “Our defense was really good at the beginning of the year, but it’s let us down the last couple of games. And really, it wasn’t good enough against Baylor in the win,” Dixon said. Alex Robinson, for his part, agreed. “It is difficult, but we have nobody to blame but ourselves. They shot a really high percentage, and it’s not part of our identity - what we thought our identity was - coming into Big 12 play.”
In a physical game, one of the odd statistics - something that Jamie Dixon called a “remarkable characteristic” was the line of Oklahoma’s Kristina Doolittle. The Sooners’ leading scorer on the day with 24 points, the kind of breakout game OU has been waiting for, was 9-12 from the field, 6-9 from the free throw line, and had ten rebounds - but was not whistled for a single foul. It’s a bit trite to complain about officiating in the conference so well known for questionable calls that there is a twitter account dedicated to mocking the refs, but Dixon made several comments during his post game press conference that could certainly be interpreted to mean he noticed a difference in how the game was called down the stretch. And while officiating often plays a role in a close game, this one came down to a lack of execution on one end and a focused execution on the other when it came down to the waning moments.
In addition to Noi’s huge 30 point night, Alex Robinson also found himself in double digits, with 16. The game’s leading rebounder at the half with seven, the PG had eight boards, four assists, and five turnovers. Desmond Bane and JD Miller finished with nine points apiece - Bane was more aggressive in looking for his shot, but was just 3-13 from the field, while Miller also struggled to find the bottom of the net (2-11 from the field) but had 12 rebounds. If you take out Noi’s career night, the other seven Frogs that saw court time shot just 25% from the field. If you remove Noi and Robinson’s shooting? TCU was just 9-45 from the field.
TCU had one last shot to win the game, despite all that had gone wrong; after Doolittle backed down Kevin Samuel for a short-range bucket that was far too easy to put the Sooners on top, the Frogs had 2.8 seconds to throw up a prayer. Noi inbounded the ball (a head-scratcher of a decision in itself), finding a cutting Kendric Davis. Dixon remarked that the Frogs were hoping to get it in Robinson’s hands, but as time ticked away, the speedy Davis drove the length of the floor, firing up a decent look from behind the arc to give TCU a shot to win. As it bounced off of the rim and onto the floor, the Sooners celebrated while the Frogs knew they had let one slip away.
How will the Frogs respond to their two game, road, losing streak? Coach Dixon knows there is only one way to know. “We will find out Tuesday.”
TCU Basketball goes home, facing West Virginia Tuesday evening in Fort Worth at 6:00pm.