Fort Worth, TX - TCU Basketball didn’t send seniors Alex Robinson and JD Miller out with a win Monday night in their final regulars season game at Schollmaier Arena, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.
The Frogs kept things close against the league-leading Wildcats in the first half of Monday’s home finale, staying within single digits despite another poor shooting performance, mainly behind a breakout game from Kevin Samuel. The redshirt freshman was active early and often, and it seemed as though the offense was finally looking to get, and keep, the big man involved. Samuel had 11 first half points, a career high, adding four rebounds and a beautiful assist to a diving RJ Nembhard in 16 minutes of action. Outside of Samuel, though, only one Frog made more than one field goal in the first half - Robinson had five points and Nembhard four as he added a pair of free throws to the layup - as the offense struggled, once again, to convert jump shots into points.
Unfortunately, that trend continued into the second half, where the first four minutes of play became an 11-0 Kansas State run that included five missed shots and four turnovers from the Frogs. Nembhard finally stopped the bleeding with a three from the top of the key, but the lead was up with 16 by that point and the Wildcats never looked back.
If it was the Samuel show in the first half, it was the RJ show in the second. Nembhard helped start a 10-0 run that cut the K State lead to 11, and the rest of the young guns brought some life back to things behind a great effort on both ends of the floor. Kendric Davis was his usual spark plug self, scoring seven points, dropping a pair of assists, and pulling down two rebounds, as he made play after play for TCU as they tried desperately to make it a ball game. Nembhard had his second double-digit scoring output in the last three games, and looked much more comfortable being aggressive on both ends of the floor. The redshirt freshman guard finished with 12 points, including eight in the second half, going 2-3 from behind the arc and 4-4 from the line. But Kouat Noi had a tough night, not scoring a point on four shot attempts, and Miller - who led the team in scoring against both Texas Tech and WVU, had just two points on 1-6 shooting. Desmond Bane and Robinson had seven a piece, and Robinson added six assists, but the two combined for five turnovers and were quiet offensively in key stretches.
For TCU, another good defensive effort went for naught, as the Frogs couldn’t overcome four Cats in double digits, led by Kamau Stokes 15. The win was the seventh on the road in conference play for Kansas State, a school record, and gives them an excellent shot to at least share a Big 12 title, effectively breaking Kansas’s streak. The Cats host Oklahoma Saturday, while the Red Raiders travel to Hilton Arena in Ames - the two are tied atop the standings currently.
Meanwhile, TCU’s NCAA Tournament hopes are on life support, and they will need to do something they haven’t done often, Saturday - win on the road in conference play. They finish the season at Texas, looking to get to seven Big 12 wins on the year and build some momentum heading into the conference tournament. Coach Dixon isn’t ready to give up yet. “Every bubble team seems to lose, so let’s find out what happens if we go win Saturday. I tell them during the game that I believe we can get better, I tell them after the game I believe we can play better. Now we have to find a way to get it done.”