Fort Worth, TX - Shortly before tip-off, it was announced that TCU’s star junior guard, RJ Nembhard, would not be available for the evening’s game against Prairie View A&M, the final contest of the 2020 Athletics season for the Horned Frogs. That had a huge impact on things for the Horned Frogs, who came into the game as 19 point favorites but trailed for much of the evening before pulling away for the eventual five point win.
It was a sloppy start for both teams, who combined to make just seven of their first 24 field goal attempts. The Panthers surprised TCU with an early half court trap, something that flummoxed the young team that was without its starting point guard and got Francisco Farabello back for the first time in 18 days. Though the Frogs knew PVAMU was a trapping team, seeing it early was a surprise for freshman PG Mike Miles. “We did not expect that, we knew they were going to press but didn’t expect it so soon. Definitely rattled us.” Though he found out just minutes before tip-off that he would be sliding over to point guard with Nembhard out, Miles was still able to deliver in a big way, pouring in 18 points, nine rebounds, and six assists — a career high. His mindset changed, but the young star was ready. “Once I knew I would be the starting PG, I had to adjust my game. I got my teammates more involved, had to help my team in other areas like rebounding.”
In addition to Miles’ big night, Kevin Samuel had a major impact as well, notching a double double with 12 points and 14 rebounds. One of the constants of the young season for the Frogs has been the desire to get the big guy more involved, and that was a focus once again Wednesday night. “Coach was telling me to post hard,” Samuel said. “They were overplaying everything, out of control, so coach told me to roll hard and call for it right there.” While Coach Dixon was very happy with Samuel’s performance, he knows that his team has to do a better job of getting him the ball in better spots. In the first half Wednesday, Samuel took only three shots and had just two points — and not coincidentally, the Frogs trailed by one, having gone scoreless for the final 3:32. “We’ve got to get him the ball in better spots,” Dixon said. “Our spacing isn’t where it needs to be, our movement wasn’t good enough today — I think that points to fatigue with us.”
Though Samuel’s opportunities were lacking through the first 20 minutes of play, TCU got a nice effort from Kevin Easley, who scored seven of his 14 points in the frame, including the first five of the night. But, overall, the Frogs shot just 30% from the field in the first 20 minutes and turned it over six times, which led to them trailing 30-29.
The second half was an improvement with Samuel leading the way; his 10 second half points came mostly on dunks, as he hammered the Panthers inside with a height and strength advantage they had no answer for. The margin could have looked much better for the Frogs had they made free throws; TCU made just 17 of their 30 attempts on the night and made just 6 of 11 attempts in the final three minutes of play. There’s a lot for this young team to learn, but the coach is still happy to get a win. “Got to make some free throws, got to make some open threes, got to play better. We battled — we were hurting, we were fatigued, but we made the plays at the end.” While Dixon is doing his best to stay positive, it’s obvious that the wear and tear of this most unusual season is especially draining, and the constant change in availability of players is making it hard for him to get his guys ready to play. “We’ve got to get our whole team out there. Can’t practice one way and play a different way. It’s something we’ve got to get through because we’ve got to get better, we’ve got to progress, and the constant in and out of our guys isn’t allowing it.”
Next up for the Horned Frogs is a tough stretch that includes a Big 12 matchup on the road at Kansas State Saturday and a home date with #3 Kansas Tuesday night. Dixon is ready to get back out there and get better. “I’m looking forward to tomorrow — getting ready, getting better in certain areas. Glad our guys battled — lots of guys going through some stuff, battled through it and found a way to win.”