W 74-68 vs. Northwestern State
L 82-78 vs. Oklahoma
The Frogs returned to the hardwood this past week for two games, a non-conference game against Northwestern State and a Big 12 opener against Oklahoma. The Frogs split the games, slipping by NWSU before losing a close one to the Sooners. While the outcome of the Northwestern State game was never *truly* in doubt, it was concerning that it took deep into the second half to put away a much less talented team. RJ Nembhard led the way with 23 points, Kevin Samuel had a double double with 12 points/15 boards, while PJ Fuller and Jaedon LeDee (in his first game of the season) dropped double figures off the bench.
Anyone who watched the Oklahoma game must have had deja vu, as Sooner senior Austin Reaves toasted the Frogs to the tune of 32 points, 6 rebounds, and 9 assists. This is the same player who torched the Frogs in their matchup in Fort Worth last season, and it was disappointing to see him do whatever he wanted on offense again. The big problem was the Frogs inability to string stops together in a consistent fashion; the offense was fine with Mike Miles, Nembhard, and Fuller all packing the stat sheet in double figures.
The defensive stumble against Oklahoma was a disappointment, considering the Frogs still rank 36th in the nation at defensive rating according to KenPom. A big sticking point right now is that the Frogs simply aren’t disruptive on that end; they don’t really pass the eye test and sport one of the lowest steal rates in the nation. Now part of this will be fixed with time and the new guys gel together, additionally players like Mickey Pearson and Kevin Easley have proven valuable as individual defenders when their respective shots aren’t falling.
A key test moving forward will be consistency on offense. RJ has had a solid scoring start to the season, but it has come on poor efficiency (39.6% effective field goal percentage), and the team will need more out of its primary scoring threat. Kevin Samuel needs to demand the ball more often; he’s using a paltry 15% of the team’s possessions and was held to just 4 points in the loss to OU. Those two are the leaders of the team, and becoming a better team starts with them. The Frogs cannot be dropping home Big 12 games against mid-tier teams if they want to get to where they want to go, and the Oklahoma game shows they have a ways to go before than can be the weekly expectation.
The Coming Week
Wednesday December 9 vs. Providence (3-2) on ESPNU
Saturday December 12 vs. Texas A&M (3-0) on TBD
The Frogs face off against the Providence Friars Wednesday night, looking to carry some momentum into a big game against in-state rivals Texas A&M at Dickies Area on Saturday. The Friars have struggled against top competition this season, getting toasted by both Indiana and Alabama, though they do sport a nice win over Davidson as well. The Friars are led by guard/big man combo David Duke (no not that one) and Nate Watson. Duke is a solid shooter from the 2 guard spot, and he’s got quite a bit of bounce that produce some highlight reel dunks. Watson has been a staple of the Friars lineup over the past two seasons, and his large frame at 6’10 260 pounds will be among the toughest for Kevin Samuel to deal with this season. The rest of the Friars’ team is off to a slow start this season, though St Joe’s transfer Jared Bynum has done a decent job facilitating the offense and North Florida transfer Noah Horcler has been a ferocious rebounder off the bench. This game is very winnable for the Frogs, they’ve opened as 3 point favorites, but it will take a concerted defensive effort to stop the firepower of Duke and Watson.
The Aggies will come to Fort Worth on Saturday sporting a 3-0 record, though in all honesty they have yet to play anyone truly of note. Coach Buzz Williams will look to keep the Aggies improving following his departure from Virginia Tech in favor of College Station. Sophomore forward Emanuel Miller has had an explosive two games so far, dropping more than 20 points in both games and relentlessly getting to the free throw line. Miller plays the 4, opting to bang inside instead of stretching out for three, so this will prove a challenge for the Easley/Pearson duo who will likely have to handle him. Miller has come off the bench in both his games so far, in relief of senior Savion Flagg, one of the top playmakers out of the frontcourt in college basketball this season. He dominated New Orleans and Tarleton State, but it remains to be seen if he can keep up his high level of play against stiffer competition; we will find out on Saturday. Guards Quenton Jackson and Andre Gordon have also started the season strong, both contributing from beyond the arc on a team that will put up more than a few three balls. The Frogs should also be favored in this matchup, but with the intra-state rivalry factor and an inconsistent offense, anything could happen. If the Frogs can be more disruptive on defense, I think they have a great shot of topping the Aggies for the first time since 1996.
The Frogs win close over both Providence and Texas A&M, extending their record to 6-1 before a showdown with Cade Cunningham and Oklahoma State.