WACO, TX - Desmond Bane is one of the most talented players in the Big 12, which generally makes you one of the best in the country. As TCU Basketball has seen its depth deplete due to injuries and transfers, Frog fans called for Bane to take on the role of alpha dog for a team that still has NCAA Tournament hopes in 2019 - to be The Guy, allowing Alex Robinson and Kouat Noi to benefit from the amount of attention opposing defense are forced to pay to a preternatural talent the caliber of the junior guard.
Against Texas Tech Monday night, Des was scoreless through the first twenty minutes of play, failing to connect on any of his first four attempts. He ignited the Frog O in the second stanza though, singlehandedly working to keep TCU in the game in Lubbock with 13 point on 5-7 shooting. It wasn’t enough, of course, as the team faded down the stretch before falling by 19. It was more of the same Saturday in Waco - Bane failed to score in the first half once again, this time on just three attempts, as TCU fell behind 39-28. Another unfortunate similarity was the ability of the home team to hit from deep - after the Red Raiders torched the TCU D for nine three pointers, the Bears proved equally as dangerous from behind the arc in the first frame with a 6-11 start. It’s hard to overcome a hot-shooting team on their home floor; it’s nearly impossible when you can’t take advantage of their misses. The Bears hit over 50% of their shots from the field in the first half, which is bad enough, but they also out-rebounded the Frogs 21-13, despite TCU having a significant size advantage inside most of the first twenty minutes. Eight offensive rebounds turned into ten second-chance points for Baylor; meanwhile the Frogs shot 36% from the field and were just 1-8 from deep. Frankly, they were lucky that they faced only an 11 point deficit heading into the second half.
Their luck would run out.
Makai Mason was close to outscoring the entire TCU team at one point in the first ten minutes of the final frame - the grad transfer guard had 32 points to the Frogs’ 37 with about 14 minutes remaining in the game. He would finish the evening with 40 and a career-high nine three pointers, firing up the crowd with each as the Bears pulled away down the stretch. Baylor shot 55% from the field Saturday night, over 53% from deep, and made just five free throws. They out-rebounded the Frogs 40-26, had 18 second chance points and 29 in the paint - to just nine for the Frogs. Despite starting what basically amounted to a five guard lineup, they held Kevin Samuel to just two points and six boards - the freshman center is averaging just six points per game in conference play and has been held to two three times in his last five outings.
The Frogs did had three scorers in double figures Saturday, led by Miller’s 17. Alex Robinson went over the thousand career point mark with 16 and added six assists, bringing him within three of the all-time TCU record. He will have a chance to break it at home against Oklahoma State Wednesday night.
TCU needed Desmond Bane to emulate Mason’s confidence and aggressiveness in looking to score, but Bane didn’t get on the board until it was far too late - with 16:16 remaining and the Frogs down 14. Mason, meanwhile, scored all of the Baylor points across a four and a half minute stretch - 16 of them in total. It was a glaring contrast for two gifted scorers in a game where the Frogs never found a rhythm on offense while allow Baylor to shoot the lights out. The Bears finished the game shooting over 55% from the field, which is really good, but the true story came from deep, where BU torched a TCU defense that had been allowing just a 28% conversion rate from deep for 15 three pointers on 28 attempts. It’s been a brutal stretch for the Frogs, who have lost their last two games by a combined 55 points while allowing 26 made three pointers. What went wrong? “It’s a product of teams playing well, I think. They made them, so give them credit. We said we needed to hold them to five or less (from three), and they had 15, so we didn’t get it done. A guy has a career night and it does some things for you - it’s a feel good day.”
Meanwhile, Desmond Bane knows he has to find a way to get involved earlier if the Frogs want to get back to their high-scoring ways. “We have a bunch of guys who can score, but we have been down the last two halves and I didn’t score... maybe I do need to be a little more aggressive. But we will continue to do what we’ve been doing all year to get us to 15 wins.” He finished the game with five points on 2-7 shooting, did not attempt a three all night and was just 1-1 from the free throw line. We did learn in the post game presser, however, that Bane had been sick all week, missing multiple practices, and affecting his energy. It was clear that the team missed him in practice, which Dixon said were noticeably different without one of their key players in them.
This is a team, that just two weeks ago, was leading the Big 12 in scoring at over 80 points per game, but hasn’t cracked 70 in their last five attempts. They knew, once the player attrition began, that they were going to have to play a different style and win it with defense. But that hasn’t gotten it done the last week, either. The Frogs were “We tried different defenses that we aren’t very good at. We were slow to the ball, they made shots, we missed free throws... we talked about what we needed to do and we didn’t do it.” Jamie Dixon was obviously frustrated by the night’s result and his team’s lack of execution, but isn’t ready to put a nail in the coffin on the season just yet. “We haven’t won on the road. We have played good teams, we have also played teams playing at their best. They’re playing obviously their best of the year - they’re not ranked, but right now they’re playing as good as anyone right now. Timing is key.” He won’t live in the past, and won’t let his team, either. “We’re moving forward. Morale is fine, we know we’ve lost on the road - it’s one loss. We have to find a way to get a win.”
“We have to get better. We have to be better on the road - the last two haven’t been good, obviously. Defense is not there, it’s something we’ve got to figure out, so we are going to go work on it. It’s one loss, it’s a big margin, but it still counts as one. Now we have to go Wednesday against Oklahoma State. We’re disappointed, but we have to get ready for Wednesday.”