Down two critical players with PJ Fuller (ankle), Francisco Farabello (COVID protocols), and with Kevin Samuel on the floor for just seven minutes in the first half, the Horned Frogs got out-scored, out-rebounded, and out-hustled through the first twenty minutes of play.
Coaches will tell you that fouls happen on the defensive end when you don’t play hard enough and on the offensive end when you play too hard. Well, things got so bad in that department for TCU that former walk-on Owen Aschieris had to play two minutes in the first half, and the Friars wisely turned up the heat, going to a full court press that led to a slough of TCU turnovers with two of the top three ball handlers on the bench. Over the final 3:03 of the first half, the Friars outscored the Frogs 9-5, as TCU turned it over four times leading to three monster dunks and a flagrant one that put the Frogs in an even deeper foul hole.
Much like Sunday against Austin Reaves and Oklahoma, the Frogs struggled with a star player Wednesday afternoon. This time, it was David Duke, a talented junior who came into the day averaging 18 points per game.
He had 15 in the first half.
Meanwhile, the vast majority of the scoring for the Horned Frogs came from just two guys: Mike Miles and RJ Nembhard. The guard duo combined for 26 of TCU’s 32 points, with the nine other players that played in the first half going just 1-4 from the floor.
TCU came out with new energy in the second half, but Providence showed no interest in slowing down; even when the Frogs got the Friars to miss, they were all over the offensive glass, pulling down six in the second half (18 for the game) — which is six more than TCU. Providence shot 50% from the field and 57% from deep over the final 20 minutes (they shot 52.4% from the field and 44% from three for the game), turned it over just 12 times to the Frogs’ 19, and rebounding (33-20), second-chance points (17-3), and bench scoring (23-11). The only place TCU had a statistical advantage was from the charity stripe, where they out shot Providence 10-6. “Certainly not the performance I anticipated”, Dixon said. We’ve had challenges,: no one has had more challenges than us. But you can’t perform like this. That’s on me. You’ve got to respond better than this. We will fix it tomorrow and get better. We have no choice.”
Much like against Oklahoma, one player dominated the game against TCU, and his success begat team success for the rest of the unit. David Duke’s season-high 28 was the story of the game, a point total he arrived at via 11-19 shooting from the field, a 5-8 day from the three point line, and one made free throw. He had just one rebound but seven assists, taking advantage of the extra attention paid to him to get his teammates involved.
There were some bright spots in a disappointing game for TCU, namely the play of Mike Miles throughout the game and the way that Kevin Samuel finished. Samuel struggled against OU and has not been as involved in the offense as Jamie Dixon and TCU would like, but he started to reassert himself down the stretch for TCU, scoring ten points late as he fought through double teams, attacked the rim, and refused to be denied in the paint. He had just six rebounds and only six shot attempts — both of which need to about double for the Frogs to be successful in Big 12 play — but if he starts Saturday how he finished Wednesday it will be a much better result for TCU Basketball.
Miles, though... man, TCU got a good one in the freshman point guard.
Mike did it all Wednesday; when the Horned Frogs surprisingly lost Francisco Farabello yesterday, Miles stepped into both the starting role and the role of the primary ball handler. Though he plays like a freshman still (he had six turnovers Wednesday, as did Nembhard), he does so many things well — and so smoothly. Miles attacks the rim with ferocity, will try and dunk on anyone from anywhere, and has shown a sweet stroke from deep alongside a beautiful pull-up game. He will get more efficient with experience, but it’s hard not to get excited about the future with Miles at the helm.
RJ Nembhard filled it up Wednesday as well; his 25 points came on 11-17 shooting (3-5 from deep), and he would have been even better if he wasn’t asked to do so much against the full-court press that Providence employed from late in the first half throughout the majority of the game. RJ acknowledged that, when asked to be the primary ball-handlers, he and Miles have to do better. “We had a lot of guys out that handle the ball. Me and Mike had to handle the ball a lot, so we have to be better. We can’t have six turnovers from the point guards.”
Jamie Dixon knows that no one cares how much his program has been through, and that nobody will be throwing a pity party for the Frogs. No matter what TCU faces, they only have one choice. “We’ve got to be better than how we’ve played. Our guys know that, they understand that, we have to go figure it out. You can have disappointment, you can acknowledge it. You can have adversity, get better for it,” he said.
Next up for the Horned Frogs will be another tough test, as TCU will face Buzz Williams and Texas A&M Saturday at Dickies Arena in a neutral-site showdown. Tip-off is scheduled for 1:00pm, and will be followed by the Horned Frogs’ final home football game of the season, a 6:00pm kick-off against Louisiana Tech.