FORT WORTH, TX - Kouat Noi’s return to the court made all the difference in the world for TCU on Saturday afternoon. After missing the previous two games due to an ankle injury, the sophomore led TCU with 20 points and 13 rebounds as the Frogs knocked off No. 19 Iowa State 75-72 at Schollmaier Arena.
The Frogs moved to 18-9 on the season and 6-8 in Big 12 play with four games to go.
Alex Robinson also recorded a double-double for the Frogs, scoring 12 points and dishing out 10 assists as TCU snapped a three-game losing streak. JD Miller added 17 points and 9 rebounds, Desmond Bane scored 16 points, and TCU shot 9-20 from deep.
In what was a critical win for the Frogs, TCU showed why Noi is such an integral piece of this team. His scoring and rebounding stand out, but his length gave Iowa State problems all afternoon. When Noi is on the court with Miller and Kevin Samuel, TCU is a long, athletic bunch.
Michael Jacobson led Iowa State with 17 points and Lindell Wigginton added 15 as Iowa State fell to 19-8 on the season and 8-6 in Big 12 play.
The Frogs shot well from deep, but they also attacked the basket a lot on Saturday afternoon, and it led to 24 free throw attempts on the day. They didn’t shoot incredibly well from the line, but some clutch makes late from Noi helped keep the game out of reach for the Cyclones.
TCU opened the game attacking the basket well. The first five possessions of the game ended with a shot at or near the rim, and TCU claimed an early 6-2 lead because of it. Three early turnovers for the Frogs kept them from pulling out to a significant early lead, despite the Cyclones starting just 2-10 from the floor.
Iowa State’s offense and defense both woke up quickly, though. After the under-16 timeout Iowa State put together a quick 6-0 run, which included a few dunks, to pull ahead 10-6.
TCU answered back with baskets from Noi and Bane, but Iowa State’s transition offense proved to be a lot for TCU to handle in the early going. The Cyclones scored eight points in transition in the first 8:30 of the game, consistently pushing the ball up court after defensive rebounds. The Cyclones pulled out to a 14-10 lead thanks to a transition basket from Zoran Talley Jr, but TCU quickly responded.
Five points form JD Miller plus baskets from Desmond Bane and Kendric Davis helped TCU to a 9-2 run, giving them the 19-16 lead at the 9:!8 mark of the first half.
In the halfcourt, TCU’s defense rotated incredibly well and crashed the boards. A lot of that had to do with the return of Kouat Noi. Noi pulled down 10 rebounds and scored 6 points in the first half - a large reason TCU maintained a lead for the majority of the half. More than just his impact on the statsheet, though Noi brought an energy to the court that had been missing in his absence.
Tactically, Noi’s spacing created a ton of opportunity for the Frogs’ offense, something that had been woefully lacking in his absence the last two games.
Between Noi’s rebounding and Alex Robinson’s great passing in the first half (he had six assists), TCU climbed out to as much as a 10 point lead in the final minutes of the first half.
A step-back jumper from JD Miller (seven first-half points) gave TCU a 36-26 lead with 1:52 left in the half, forcing an Iowa State timeout. Iowa State made one basket the rest of the way, giving us a halftime score of 36-28.
TCU started to get hot from three after the break, as deep shots from Miller, Noi, and Robinson helped the Frogs maintain their lead. Robinson’s three pushed TCU’s lead to 47-41 with 15:43 left in the game, and came right after an Iowa State three cut the Frogs’ lead to one possession.
Iowa State was persistent in their comeback, though, and an 8-0 run capitalized by a Cameron Lard dunk tied the game at 51 with 11:59 left.
JD Miller made two free throws and a dunk to help TCU back to a 55-53 lead, but it was short-lived. A Lindell Wigginton three put Iowa State ahead for the first time since the 11:19 mark of the first half.
TCU suffered extended shooting woes in the second half, making just one basket from the 15:45 mark all the way down to the 7:31 mark of the half. A three from Noi cut TCU’s deficit to one, 60-59, as the Frogs continued to fight despite the well running dry.
Noi seemed hellbent on dragging TCU to victory in the final portion of the second half. After his three he drove to the lane and drew a foul.
Noi made both free throws to give TCU the 61-60 lead and followed it up with a three-pointer. The next time down, Desmond Bane drilled a three from basically the same spot as Noi to push TCU’s lead to 67-62 and force an Iowa State timeout with 5:02 left in the contest.
Once again, Iowa State responded. Multiple baskets around the rim, including a tough layup from Lard, disappeared TCU’s lead, forcing a tie at 68.
Desmond Bane responded with a deep three to push TCU’s lead out to 71-68. An Iowa State basket at the 59-second mark cut TCU’s lead to 71-70, as a nervous energy filled Schollmaier Arena. Iowa State cut the lead to 71-70, forcing a TCU timeout with 49 seconds remaining.
Out of the break JD MIller made a strong move to the rim, scoring the basket and drawing a foul. He missed the ensuing free throw, and Iowa State scored on the other end, making it 73-72 TCU.
With 22.9 seconds left TCU called their final timeout, attempting to set up one final play. It never got that far, as Noi was fouled in the back court. He made both free throws, pushing TCU’s lead to 75-72 with 21 seconds on the game clock.
Strong defense made things tough for Iowa State, and Horton-Tucker missed a step-back three. JD Miller pulled the rebound down, and was caught up for a jump ball with 1.1 seconds left. The possession arrow went to TCU, but on the ensuing inbounds pass, Robinson’s pass to Bane was poked out of bounds and ruled Iowa State’s ball.
The clock expired, but the officials went to the booth to see if time should be put back on the clock. After an extended review they decided to put 0.4 seconds back on the clock.
Iowa State’s shot missed, and TCU came away with the win.
TCU travels to Morgantown for a Tuesday night matchup against West Virginia. The Mountaineers are having a down year, but have still be tough at home. It’s another must-win for TCU, if they want to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive.
Check out Jamie Dixon’s postgame comments below: