It’s never a good time to not win, but it’s hard to think of a time when TCU Basketball needed a victory more than they did in Fort Worth Saturday afternoon.
Behind a crowd that was locked in from the tip, the Frogs shot the lights out from deep and made just enough stops defensively to put away a scrappy Kansas State team, moving to 5-7 in conference play and taking sole possession of sixth place in the Big 23 with just six games remaining in the regular season. What did it mean for TCU? Desmond Bane summed it up postgame. “It was huge for us. We’ve been talking all week about trying to get back on track, getting a win and feeling good about ourselves again. I thought we played well. We were able to extend our lead. We rebounded the ball well. Bug (Grayer) played real well, RJ played real well. We had good contributions across the board and that’s the reason why we got the win tonight.”
It was huge for the Frogs, not just to get the win, but in how they did it. After turning the ball over ten times in the first half, they had just four in the second, allowing them to overcome a one point deficit at the break. After the worst shooting stretch from three of the Jamie Dixon era, they hit 15 of 33 against the Wildcats, with five different players connecting from deep and several knocking down big shots at the shot clock buzzer. They made their free throws (7-9), won the rebounding battle (34-30), and had 19 assists on 23 made field goals. It was the prettiest game of the season, but it was effective, and they played the way they needed to against a team as desperate as themselves.
Jamie Dixon reiterated time and time again in the post game press conference that his team has flaws; you can point to the turnovers, the missed layups, and — most glaringly in my opinion — the lack of touches for Kevin Samuel (five points on 2-3 shooting, with six rebounds and two blocks), the over-reliance on the long ball (more than half of their shot attempts Saturday), and forcing just eight turnovers by a K State team that hasn’t exactly been taking care of the ball during their own struggles. But, at the end of the day, you have to win home games, and frankly for this team — you just have to win games.
Desmond Bane was great Saturday, scoring 17 points on 6-14 shooting and a 5-10 day from deep, singlehandedly keeping his team in the game even as the Cats continuously chipped away at the early TCU lead, and took the lead themselves down the stretch in the first half. When Bane went to the bench with two early fouls in the first, the Frogs absolutely fell apart on both ends of the floor, allowing a 13-0 run over a four minute period that erased what had been a ten point lead. Bane came back in the game with 1:23 remaining in the half and Kevin Samuel scored on an alley-oop dunk almost immediately, cutting the Wildcats’ lead to one as the teams headed to the locker room.
The Frogs came out motivated, scoring the first five points of the second half thanks to a PJ Fuller layup and an RJ Nembhard three. The Cats refused to go away, though, taking the lead just over three minutes into the final stanza and staying within three points for the next several minutes.
That’s when Desmond Bane went nuclear.
Bane assisted on the Frogs’ first three baskets out of the break, then drained two deep threes within a 90 second period to stretch TCU’s lead to four. He found a streaking Nembhard for a fast break dunk off of a rebound, then followed that play up with another long three ball. He added three more assists and another three ball down the stretch as TCU stretched the lead to double digits, eventually winning by 11.
Bane finished the game with eight assists to lead the Frogs, adding eight rebounds and four blocks for one of the most complete performances of his prolific career. Nembhard had five assists in his first career start at point guard to go along with 15 points and four rebounds. Francisco Farabello came off the bench and played well, notching eight points and two assists, and hitting two big three pointers as well.
The Wildcats were paced by Sneed’s 15, with Sloan (11), and Diarra (10) scoring in double digits. Mawien added six points and nine rebounds.
Next up for the Frogs is an opportunity for revenge when they travel to Austin Wednesday for a matchup with the Longhorns. To separate themselves from the middle of the pack, they’ll have to avenge their bad loss to the Burnt Orange from earlier this season. They’ll look to do just that at 7:00pm Wednesday in Austin.