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TCU Basketball Preview: Oklahoma

The Frogs have a chance to take down a struggling Sooners squad

Desmond Bane drives to the rack against Oklahoma earlier this year in Norman.
Melissa Triebwasser

Game Time: 11:00 AM CST | Location: Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena – Fort Worth, TX | TV: ESPN2 | Series: Oklahoma leads 22-4 | Game Line: TCU -5.5

The TCU Horned Frogs (17-7) have an early game on Saturday, as they play host the the Oklahoma Sooners (15-10). The Frogs will look to rebound from a heartbreaking OT loss to Kansas on Monday night, 82-77. Kendric Davis was once again spectacular for the Frogs, putting in 16 points to go along with 5 rebounds and 7 assists. Desmond Bane led the team in scoring with 18, while Kouat Noi and Alex Robinson were also in double figures with 14 and 13 respectively.

Oklahoma lost their most recent game as well, a 59-53 defeat in Waco. Kristian Doolittle led the scoring with 14 points, joined in double figures by Christian James and Brady Manek with 11 apiece. Rashard Odomes also contributed 10 rebounds. The loss to the Bears was the latest in a string of 5 straight losses bookended by a Baylor defeat in Norman. It’s been a rough month for the Sooners, getting annihilated on their home floor by Baylor 77-47 and losing important games like @West Virginia. The Sooners currently sit at 3-9 in the conference, so they will need to turn it around fast to salvage their season.

The Frogs came painfully close to winning the first matchup in Norman, losing a late lead and falling by only 2 points. A copy of that game preview can be read here.

Projected Starting Five

#0 Christian James (Senior from Houston, TX)

2018-19 Stats: 15.4 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 1.9 APG, 41/32/77 shooting splits

James is still the Sooners’ leading scorer, but his inconsistent play has been a major driving force in Oklahoma’s recent slump. He’s averaging only 10 points a contest on 29% shooting (25% from three) over their losing streak, and his confidence has looked shot against the better defenses in the conference. The Sooners will need James to step back up, as they have been reliant on having a primary scoring threat (think Trae Young or Buddy Hield). Despite his slump, the Frogs have seen in the past how skilled he is, and he’ll have the screen light to shoot all night long. The defensive focus should remain the same as the first game: keep James contained and in his slump.

#35 Brady Manek (Sophomore from Harrah, OK)

2018-19 Stats: 11.6 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 0.7 APG, 45/35/70 shooting splits

While most of the Sooners have struggled of late, Manek has played relatively well. Outside of a dreadful game against Baylor, he has been a consistent scorer and has hit the glass a bit harder. The same player profile always fits Manek: he’s a softer stretch 4/5 who is a crafty scorer. He’s also the #6 rim protector in the Big 12, with a 3.6 block rate. Manek has settled after a rocky non-conference start to the season, and now you basically know what you’ll get when #35 is on the floor.

#21 Kristian Doolittle (Junior from Edmond, OK)

2018-19 Stats: 9.4 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.1 APG, 50/0/73 shooting splits

Last preview, I wrote that Doolittle doesn’t really score that much. He then proceeded to drop 24 points on our heads and has elevated to OU’s third leading scorer. He cleans the glass as well as anyone in the conference, and has refocused after a rough three game stretch at the end of January. He is Oklahoma’s most well rounded player, and someone the Frogs will be sure to pay extra attention to this time around.

#1 Rashard Odomes (Senior from Copperas Cove, TX)

2018-19 Stats: 7.0 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 1.1 APG, 54/36/50 shooting splits

Odomes has slowly worked his way back into the rotation for the Sooners, enjoying a nice stretch from the Kansas State game to the Vanderbilt game. It still hasn’t been all positives for Odomes, as he has had an interesting past five games, but it’s clear his confidence is far above what it was when these teams first met. He has continued to force the issue; when he’s on it leads to him playing bully ball on the way to easy layups. I don’t know what Odomes will show up for this game, but the Frogs better be ready for a lot more offense out of him this go around.

#24 Jamal Bieniemy (Freshman from Katy, TX)

2018-19 Stats: 4.2 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 3.1 APG, 35/39/55 shooting splits

Bieniemy was elevated into a starting role shortly after the TCU game, displacing Aaron Calixte. He scored 28 points over the course of 2 games, but other than that he still hasn’t scored in double figures in a game this season. He’s remained a pest on the defensive end, he is 5th in the Big 12 in steal rate, but his lack of scoring limits his passing ability and scoring (only 11 free throw attempts). He has a chance to be a special player, but only if he can fight through his offensive woes.

Projected Reserves

#3 Miles Reynolds (Senior from Chicago, IL)

2018-19 Stats: 7.7 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 1.4 APG, 40/21/75 shooting splits

Man oh man, Reynolds has had a rough go of it in conference play. With a horrid eFG% of 32.4 in conference play, the Pacific grad transfer has played himself nearly out of the rotation. He’s scored in double figures just once in 2019, and was benched starting with the TCU game. It’s not too late for him to turn his season around, lord knows the Sooners would love it if he could, but it’s looking dire for Reynolds’s final season.

#2 Aaron Calixte (Senior from Stoughton, MA)

2018-19 Stats: 7.4 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 2.5 APG, 39/35/78 shooting splits

Calixte is another grad transfer who hasn’t had quite the season he expected after departing Maine. He and Odomes switch out in the starting five now, and his assist to turnover ratio in conference play has been dreadful (only a 16.1 assist rate only ranks 23rd in the conference, not what you want out of a #1 point guard). When you’re only 5’11, you can’t afford to not be elite at passing and/or scoring, yet his eFG% is similar to Reynolds’s at 42% in Big 12 play. Sooner fans have to be begging for more performances like West Virginia, when Calixte showed flashes of his Maine self and was promptly started over the next 2 games.

#4 Jamuni McNeace (Senior from Kankakee, IL)

2018-19: 5.4 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 0.5 APG, 53/0/38 shooting splits

McNeace has missed the last two games with an injury, an Lon Kruger called him a game time decision on the 14th. McNeace has said he plans to play, so I’ll consider him good to go until reported otherwise. Another player who has had one big game and a lot of silence, McNeace dropped 13 points on Oklahoma State but has otherwise struggled since we last saw him. McNeace will likely be limited this game, so even if he plays look for a minutes cap on the senior big man.

#5 Matt Freeman (Junior from Auckland, NZ)

2018-19 Stats: 3.2 PPG, 1.4 RPG, 0.4 APG, 35/35/75 shooting splits

Freeman has been relegated to the end of the bench, though he has logged more minutes these past 2 games thanks to McNeace’s injury. He’s shown signs of heating up from three after a sluggish start to conference play, and that’s where he could hurt the Frogs the most. With McNeace’s return, I think we will see very little of Freeman on Saturday.

Three Things to Look For

Kendric Davis, Shooting Star

Wow, Kendric Davis has shot up over these last few games. He’s outplayed Alex Robinson, which is a stunner considering A Rob’s familiarity with the offense, but it speaks far more about how excellent Davis has been as of late. I’m intrigued to see if he can keep it going on Saturday. Calixte shouldn’t provide too much resistance in the battle of the backups, but he’ll have to be careful around the pesky Bieniemy.

Force Manek, James Outside

The Sooners are one of the worst interior offenses in the conference, which is helpful for the worst interior defense in the conference, us. Manek and James can both be coerced into shooting threes, which will be key for a Frogs defense that has been solid against the long ball. Force their main two options to become dependant on the three, and the Frogs can have a more effective defense.

Consistent Scoring Threats

Alex Robinson, Desmond Bane, JD Miller. All three are absolutely essential to the Frogs’ success, yet it’s been a long time since all three have had a good game at the same time. The explanations make sense. Miller has been asked to play a lot of 5 after Yuat Alok’s departure, and banging on defense with players like Dedric Lawson takes its toll. A Rob is feeling the effects of playing heavy minutes and being the focal point of opponent’s defensive game plans every night. Bane is adapting to being the guy on a team, and needs to assert himself more consistently. Add in an unusually cold night from Kouat Noi, and it’s a miracle the Frogs were in the KU game. TCU desperately needs all their guys to perform, considering the depth that they’ve lost

Prediction

I’m feeling pretty good about this one. If you couldn’t tell from the keys to the game, this game will be more about what the Frogs do or don’t do rather than anything the Sooners throw out. If the Frogs play to their potential, they could achieve a very solid win. I think the time off will have helped players like JD recover, and the Frogs will be ready for anything the Sooners can bring. The Frogs send OU to their 6th straight loss, and continue their march towards March.

Prediction: TCU 75, Oklahoma 69

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

  • TCU hosts Oklahoma Saturday at 11 a.m.
  • The Frogs have lost consecutive home games just three times under head coach Jamie Dixon.
  • Saturday is TCU’s third-annual Retro Rewind game at Schollmaier Arena. The Frogs are 1-1 in the retro games with a win over Texas in 2017 and a loss to Texas Tech in 2018. TCU will debut new purple FROGS (script) uniforms. OU will wear its white uniform.
  • The Frogs are 20-27 in Big 12 play under Jamie Dixon after going 9-9 last season, the most in their six seasons of the Big 12.
  • Alex Robinson ranks sixth in the nation at 7.3 assists per game. He is TCU’s all-time assist leader, eclipsing the previous mark of 575 career assists against Oklahoma State. Robinson was Preseason Honorable Mention All-Big 12.
  • TCU and Kansas are the only Big 12 teams with two players in the top 10 in the conference in scoring. TCU with Desmond Bane (7th/15.2 and Kouat Noi (9th/14.8) and KU with Dedric Lawson (1st/19.4) and Legerald Vick (10th/14.1).
  • Kouat Noi ranks third in the Big 12 with 2.5 made 3-pointers per game and has made at least one in 23-straight games, the seventh best in the nation among major conference players.
  • Kevin Samuel ranks fourth in the Big 12 with 1.9 blocks per game and has recorded multiple blocks in seven of his last nine games. He’s three blocks from TCU’s freshman record of 49, held by Karviar Shepherd (2013-14).
  • Desmond Bane (vs. OSU), Alex Robinson (at BU) and JD Miller (vs. KU) each went over 1,000 career points recently.
  • The Horned Frogs rank 15th in the nation with 17.0 assists per game, 24th in 3-point percentage defense at 30.2, 35th in offensive efficiency at 112.7 and 42nd in defensive efficiency.
  • On TCU’s current roster, only four played in a Big 12 game prior to this season. Six are freshmen or redshirt freshmen