2020 was a year often categorized by what didn’t happen instead of what did. Cancelled seasons, cancelled games, postseasons that never materialized... these were some of the hallmarks of sports in the year that felt like a decade.
But though there are plenty of what might have beens, there are also plenty of moments worth celebrating. With that in mind, let’s look back at the 11 best games of the 2020 TCU Athletics season. These are presented chronologically.
Make sure to leave your nominees in the comments, too!
TCU Athletics Top Ten Games of the Year:
January 3rd: TCU Women’s Basketball 65, #25 Texas 63 (Austin, TX)
The year that was started off with one of the most impressive wins of 2020, as TCU Women’s Basketball rolled into the Erwin Center and came out with the first win in Austin in program history.
Trailing by five at the break, the Horned Frogs fought back with a big third quarter behind superstar point guard Lauren Heard (26 points) and a career effort from veteran Michelle Berry, who came off the bench to pour in 15 points, including the game-winner with 6.7 seconds remaining.
January 15th: TCU Women’s Basketball 77, Iowa State 74 (Ames, IA)
Another back and forth affair, Heard and the Cyclones’ walking bucket Ashley Joens went shot for shot in Ames, and while Joens outscored her contemporary, Heard got the last laugh with the win.
Iowa State jumped out to a big lead and held it at double digits midway through the third quarter despite Heard’s hot start from the field. But Kianna Ray and Jaycee Bradley started clicking from deep and Jayde Woods’ 10 point fourth quarter helped put the Horned Frogs on top. TCU had just six turnovers on the night, helping to secure the win.
TCU Women’s Basketball might be the program that got the worst of the shutdown, as the Frogs were the Big 12’s #2 seed heading into the conference tournament and primed to make it to March Madness for the first time in a decade.
They are off to a solid start this year though, and have a chance to try and upset Baylor Saturday afternoon at Schollmaier Arena.
February 16th and 17th: Men’s Tennis with back-to-back Top 10 wins over #10 NC State and #6 A&M
Men’s Tennis has consistently been one of the top programs at TCU, regularly taking home both team and individual hardware. It seems every year that they graduate a super star, but coach Dave Roditi just keeps restocking the shelves with talented players that show up on the biggest stages.
2020 was no different, as the Horned Frogs played nine ranked opponents in their first 16 contests, winning six of them. They had a hell of a run in February, facing off with six top opponents in a 14 day span — and beating five of them (their only loss was to #1 USC).
The highlight of the stretch was a pair of sweeps over #10 NC State and #6 A&M — matches that were followed a week later with victories over #14 Ole Miss and #8 Stanford. Alastair Gray was great in his matches, as the senior continued to establish himself as one of the country’s top collegiate players.
February 22nd: TCU Baseball at Minnesota
When we talk of what might have beens, none of those questions ring louder than they do for TCU Baseball. A team that was stacked in all three aspects of play, the Frogs looked primed for an Omaha run and another shot at the elusive National Championship they have been chasing since 2010.
A sweep of Kentucky to start the season had Frog fans thinking big, but the first big challenge was still on deck: a matchup with Max Meyer, the Golden Gophers talented pitcher who would be selected with the third overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft.
Well, he didn’t look like a first rounder against the Horned Frogs.
Playing in the beautiful new US Bank Stadium — home of the NFL’s Vikings — the Horned Frogs got to work early against Meyer, chasing him after 5.2 innings after knocking him around for four runs on four hits, including two dingers and a double. Meanwhile, juco transfer Johnny Ray looked the part of eventual superstar, throwing a complete game shutout with seven strikeouts for his first win on the season. The TCU offense racked up 12 runs on 12 hits, with Porter Brown reaching base three times and scoring three runs and Tommy Sacco and Conner Shepherd driving in three apiece. Sacco, Shepherd, and Austin Henry went deep for TCU in the win.
February 29th: TCU Basketball 75, #2 Baylor 72 (Fort Worth, TX)
The 2019-2020 TCU Basketball season was, in a lot of ways, a disappointing one; with Desmond Bane in his senior season, fans hoped for a better way to send of their star — and future first round draft pick. But the Horned Frogs suffered under a slough of transfers and a young team that didn’t have the depth to compete night in and night out through the slog of a Big 12 season.
There were some bright spots though — and none were brighter than Bane’s signature game against #2 Baylor in one of the last games on his home floor. Coming into the matchup, TCU was 2-4 in games against ranked opponents, having upsets over Texas Tech and West Virginia to remind them that they could win big games. But they also were just 2-8 in their last ten contests and coming off of a tough loss at Iowa State.
None of that seemed to matter to Desmond Bane.
The senior guard had a game for the ages, scoring 23 points in 37 minutes, corralling five rebounds and dropping four dimes. He was 5-8 from three, including a step back that was so nasty, Draymond Green tweeted about it and the shot was featured on SportsCenter on other outlets. Trailing by seven at the half, Bane and PJ Fuller took over in the final 20 minutes, as Desmond dropped 19 of his 23 points (and all four of his assists) and Fuller added 17 of his 21 points on the day.
The Frogs lost the rebounding battle and turnover margin but shot lights out from deep — and had Desmond Bane.
Though TCU would go out with a whimper in the Big 12 Tournament, the win over a top two opponent late in the season is what most folks will remember from that year. And watching Bane go off on his home floor one last time was well worth the price of admission.
February 29th: TCU Swim Breaks Records at Big 12 Championship
We don’t talk much about TCU Swim around here — something we certainly hope to correct. But coach James Winchester is building something great in Fort Worth, and had some exceptional results in his first couple of years at the helm of the program.
The best weekend of their season may well have been at the Big 12 Championships, where they set multiple school records and saw 19 student-athletes place in the top eight of their events to earn spots on the podium.
The women’s 400 freestyle relay of Madie Sandberg, Claire Munster, Claire Banic and Lucia Simovicova set a school record, turning in a time of 3:21.71 to finish fourth overall. Janis Silins earned a silver medal and an NCAA B cut in the 200 breaststroke, finishing with a time of 1:54.63, a school record for men’s swim. Hugh McPherson grabbed a fourth-place finish in the 200 breast after posting a 1:57.35. Kade Knoch touched the wall with a time of 1:44.22 in the 200 backstroke, the third-fastest in program history, and good for third overall in the event.
March 7th: TCU Baseball 8, #2 UCLA 4 (Los Angeles, CA)
TCU got off to a hot start in 2020, winning 10 of their first 11 games before dropping back to back contests to UT Arlington and USC. But they bounced back in a big way their next day out, facing off with #2 UCLA and looking like an elite team in the process.
The Frogs jumped out to a 4-0 lead through two innings of play, as the offense was clicking and Chuck King shut down the Bruin batters from the mound. But a two-run triple helped make it a one run game through four, tightening things up for TCU.
The Horned Frogs weren’t done yet though, using a four run fourth to propel them to their first win over a ranked opponent that season. Gene Wood and Conner Shepherd both launched two run shots in that pivotal fourth frame to put things out of reach for UCLA in Los Angeles.
October 3rd: TCU Football at #9 Texas
It was, without a doubt, the most strangely officiated game I have ever witnessed.
We knew we were in for... something... early on, when the opening kick-off was flagged for procedural violations — by both teams.
It would get worse from there. Much worse.
Officials flagged the two teams a combined 14 times — IN THE FIRST QUARTER. By the end of the day, there were 26 flags through for nearly 200 yards — 14 on the Frogs and 12 on the Longhorns. We are talking nearly four full hours of a ref show.
The game itself, in between whistles, was entertaining as hell; in typical TCU v Texas fashion, one team looked like the better coached, better prepared, and flat-out better team — and the other was Texas. The first quarter saw TCU hold the Horns to just one yard on their first six plays while striking for the first score of the game thanks to big efforts on the ground by Darwin Barlow and Max Duggan. Texas responded with a touchdown of their own, but a 50 yard completion to Quentin Johnston early in the second led to TCU’s second touchdown of the afternoon. The Horns would answer once again, but two quick field goals — one thanks to a Sam Ehlinger interception — made it 20-14 Frogs at the half.
The Frogs trailed for the first time in the fourth quarter, when a busted coverage ultimately led to a Texas TD. But after back to back punts by both teams, Duggan took back the lead, running a draw up the middle for 26 and the game-winning score.
Of course, things had to end weird because it was a weird game, so we weren’t quite done yet. The Horns drove the length of the field thanks to a big reception by Keontay Ingram, but the hustle of Lakendrick Van Zandt saved the touchdown. That set up a first and goal from the one, and Garret Wallow said NO — forcing an Ingram fumble and saving the win for the Frogs. Duggan took a 15 yard loss and a safety as time expired, a smart coaching decision that cemented the win.
November 5th: TCU Soccer 1, West Virginia 0
We did have a Big 12 Champion in 2020, as TCU Soccer went 8-0-1 in an abbreviated conference season to claim the regular season Big 12 title and secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament that is expected to be rescheduled for the spring.
The Horned Frogs were formidable in all aspects of the beautiful game in a challenging season; a school record seven players were named to the all-Conference teams, led by Offensive Player of the Year Grace Collins and Goal Keeper of the Year Emily Alvarado. Defender Brandi Peterson and forward Yazeem Ryan were also first team honorees.
After blitzing through the league slate, in which Alvarado posted six clean sheets — the Frogs faced down a Mountaineer program that had been the class of the conference since joining in 2012. But Eric Bell’s program was not intimidated one bit, and battled toe to toe with WVU, taking the lead in the 51st minute off of the foot of Collins. One goal was enough for Alvarado once again, as she made three big saves including a brilliant one in the 21st minute.
In a trying year of testing, cancellations, and rescheduled games, the Horned Frogs did not have a single player or coach test positive for COVID-19, and that might be the biggest testament of all to the culture Bell has build in Fort Worth. And while fan attendance was limited at Garvey-Rosenthal Stadium, the atmosphere was electric on a beautiful fall night. “It was awesome. We had people that couldn’t get in and they were behind the goal outside the fence,” Bell noted. “That’s what college sports are all about – the home field advantage. I think our group took advantage of it.”
December 5th: TCU Football 29, #15 Oklahoma State 22
Though the football season was disappointing at times, the Frogs finished strong, winning five of their final six contests. The most enjoyable of which may very well have been the Big 12 finale, as the Frogs stormed back from a 13 point deficit to earn a seven point win.
Things looked bleak for the TCU offense early, something fans were all too familiar with in 2020 (and 2019... and 2018, if we are being honest). TCU’s first seven drives ended in four punts, a fumble, an interception, and a missed field goal — and there would be three more fumbles before all was said and done.
But the Frogs kept chipping away, riding Max Duggan’s legs and a big game from Derius Davis to stay within striking distance. The defense played lights out when they weren’t put in impossible positions, containing star receiver Tylan Wallace and adjusting after running back Dezmon Jackson put up huge first half numbers.
On their first drive of the second half, the Frogs ran the ball nine times in 11 plays, ending with a Duggan 42 scoring scamper to cut the lead to just two. Following the touchdown, the defense forced a three and out, and TCU took their first lead behind the monster effort of Zach Evans and a 46 yard completion to QJ. A fumble and a drive that moved backwards put the TCU defense in tough positions twice — once they forced a three and out, the other they allowed a 55 yard touchdown strike to Wallace that made it 22-21 Okie State.
The two teams managed just seven plays each in their first two drives of the fourth quarter, but the Frogs took the lead for good on their third, with Duggan connecting with Davis for 71 yards and a score. Trevon Moehrig would pick off Spencer Sanders in the back of the end zone on the ensuing possession, and though the Cowboys would get two more chances, they would manage just 24 total yards across nine plays, and the Frogs would earn their second win over a ranked opponent on the year.
December 16th: TCU Basketball 77, Oklahoma State 76 (Stillwater, OK)
The most recent game of our top ten is another basketball contest, this one pitting two top freshmen — and long time friends — against each other in Big 12 play.
While it was supposed to be all Cade Cunningham in Stillwater on that dreary December night, RJ Nembhard and Mike Miles were the guys going home happy after a 9-0 win to close the game made up for a blown big lead early.
TCU jumped out to a double digit advantage early, holding soon to be lottery pick Cade Cunningham at bay for the first 20 minutes, as they had an advantage of as many as 13 points. But the Cowboys climbed back in things by virtue of their talented young players, wily veterans, and an infusion of energy that the Frogs didn’t match.
Ten turnovers in the first 13 minutes of the second half led to a six point Okie State lead, one that would climb to eight with just 2:21 remaining. But that’s when TCU took over, as Kevin Samuel slammed home a big dunk, made two critical free throws, and had a blocked shot that led to RJ Nembhard’s game-winning jumper with just eight seconds to play. The defense of Taryn Todd and Nembhard on Cunningham forced a bad look, and the star’s jumper at the buzzer was short.
RJ once again reminded people that he’s an NBA worthy prospect too, pouring in 21 points, four rebounds, and four assists while playing all 40 minutes. Samuel had 18/8 and freshman Miles chipped in 16 points as well. The back to back wins over A&M and Oklahoma State showed Frog fans what this team is capable of when healthy, and gave us lots of hope for 2021.