Fort Worth, TX - On January 14th TCU lost to West Virginia by 32 points. It was a complete dismantling of a Horned Frogs team that had opened conference play 3-0. Since that loss the Frogs had gone just 2-9, with a six-game losing streak highlighting many of TCU’s deficiencies.
Today TCU upset No. 17 West Virginia 67-60 thanks to big games from Kevin Samuel and RJ Nembhard. Samuel finished with 19 points, eight rebounds, five blocks, and two steals, while Nembhard added 16 points and four assists.
The chaos of this season can truly be defined in one tweet, courtesy of former Frogs O’ War contributor Dean Straka:
.@TCUbasketball loses by a combined SEVENTY-EIGHT points on the road to Texas Tech and West Virginia, yet somehow beats both of those schools (both ranked at the time) in Fort Worth.— Dean Straka (@DWStraka49) February 22, 2020
I mean that just about sums up this season perfectly.
To make Saturday’s game even more confusing, Desmond Bane scored just eight points for TCU on 3-15 shooting, including none after halftime. He did hand out 10 assists, though, and complimented the shooting of his teammates after the game.
Of course, Bane could have had 10 points on the night. With just seven seconds left and the game tied at 55, West Virginia missed a shot and Bane pulled down the rebound. He streaked down the court with a Mountaineer defender on his hip, and he made a layup with 0.9 seconds left in the contest.
TCU’s fans erupted, but the cheering turned to confusion, and then outrage, as fans watched a Big 12 official call Bane for a charge.
We’ll let you determine for yourselves whether it was the right call.
Fortunately, TCU maintained their composure and outscored West Virginia 12-5 in the extra frame.
The first half was interesting, as it saw TCU and West Virginia both look great at points and awful at others. TCU jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead thanks to two buckets from Samuel and one from RJ Nembhard, all assisted by Bane.
TCU then led 9-4, and 14-10, before West Virginia started to wake up a bit.
The Mountaineers used a 15-1 run over a 5:44 span of game time to take a 25-15 lead with 7:58 left in the half. The run overlapped a streak of more than seven minutes without a basket for TCU.
Baskets from Jaire Grayer and PJ Fuller broke the scoreless stretch, and a Bane jumper pulled the Frogs to within 25-21 as the crept closer to the half.
TCU suffered a scary moment when Francisco Farabello went after a loose ball, and hit his head hard on the court. Farabello stayed down for several minutes, before he was helped off the court and into the locker room. He did not return to the game, and it was reported that he suffered a concussion.
After the game, Jamie Dixon suggested that Farabello suffered a concussion, while also saying that he seemed to have improved dramatically from the time of the injury to the end of the game, based on Dixon’s conversation with Farabello shortly after the final buzzer.
Without Farabello, TCU leaned more on senior guard Edric Dennis Jr, who contributed six points and two rebounds in 19 minutes. Dennis Jr. was a starter at the beginning of the season, but has seen his role continue to get smaller and smaller as the Frogs search for solutions on offense.
Bane mentioned after the game that he and Dennis had a long talk after a recent practice, and he encouraged Dennis to keep waiting for his opportunity to get back in the lineup.
TCU opened the second half the way they finished the first - surging. An 11-2 run over the first 4+ minutes was capped by a Nembhard three from the wing, giving TCU a 40-33 lead.
The Frogs clung to their lead for the majority of the second half, with West Virginia continually pulling to within 2-3 points but never getting over the hump. That is, until there was just 1:56 remaining in the game.
A Derek Culver layup gave West Virginia a 54-53 lead, as TCU was in the midst of another scoring slump. That lead lasted just 31 seconds though, as Kevin Samuel calmly hit two free throws to reclaim the lead for TCU at 55-54.
Samuel’s free throw shooting has been a point of frustration for him, and for all TCU fans, since the big man stepped on the court last season. But he’s always continued to work hard to improve, and the two free throws in regulation, plus two more in overtime (in a 1-and-1 situation!) might be a signal that all the hard work is paying off.
It’s also symbolic of something larger for this TCU team, which has never quit playing in the face of adversity.
Now, with four games left on the regular season schedule, the Frogs look to finish strong as they head into the Big 12 Tournament. Picked to finish last in the conference, TCU is currently tied with Texas for 6th, and that could be a 3-way tie for 5th should Oklahoma lose on Saturday at Oklahoma State.
Check out the full postgame press conference below: