TCU avoided an upset on Thursday night, coming back from down 13 in the second half to fend of Nicholls State 63-50.
It was a shockingly underwhelming performance from a team that just three days earlier had blown out Southern Miss.
Jamie Dixon noted after the game that he didn’t feel the Frogs have made as much progress as they should have through the first three games.
“I think they ran some different stuff and we had an opportunity to see it and we handled it. We really guarded, they didn’t run a lot of sets but I thought we guarded those pretty well. I think the ball’s not moving like it should be. We’re at the same point. We haven’t made the progress I thought we’d have.”
“I say that and we got a little better the other day. We got frustrated when we missed open shots. We got frustrated early, quickly. Too quickly. When we didn’t make open shots at the beginning of this game.”
Missed shots came in waves early on for TCU, who shot less than 27% from the floor in the first half and found themselves trailing at the break.
TCU managed to pull out to an early 7-2 lead, thanks in large part to ice cold shooting from the Colonels, who opened up just 1-12 from the floor. The Frogs’ own poor shooting kept them from pulling away, as they opened the game just 3-11 from the floor.
Things got worse when TCU’s starters headed to the bench at the 13:45 mark. TCU scored just five more points over the next 8:58 of game time, while Nicholls pulled out to an 18-12 lead they wouldn’t relinquish for the remainder of the half.
Defensively, Nicholls played incredibly tight man defense and used their size in the paint to disrupt TCU’s offense. It became clear early on that the refs were okay with the physicality, which was tight but not out of control, and TCU failed to respond.
On the opposite side of things, the Frogs failed to win a half of rebounding for the first time this season. Nicholls pulled down 22 rebounds to just 19 for TCU, ten of which came on the offensive glass.
It was a stark departure from Monday night, when TCU out-rebounded Southern Miss 53-27. Instead, TCU saw the Colonels take what they wanted in the first half.
Meanwhile, senior Latrell Jones scored ten points for Nicholls in the final six minutes of the first half, including a corner three on a fast break, and an emphatic put-back dunk on a missed shot, where TCU failed to box out.
The dunk gave Nicholls a 30-21 lead, and was an exclamation point on a disastrous half of basketball for the Horned Frogs.
Francisco Farabello was fouled shooting a last-second three right before halftime, and he made all three shots from the line to bring th half-time tally to 30-24, in favor of the Colonels.
The second half looked like more of the same to start, with Nicholls pulling all the way out to a 38-25 lead at the 17:21 mark after a few more big threes from the Colonels.
Then, momentum began to shift.
Micah Peavy made two hustle plays that sparked the rest of the team and subsequently drew the TCU fans back into the game.
First, he stole a pass on the perimeter and took it all they way down the court for a layup, cutting TCU’s deficit to 10, 38-28. On the ensuing defensive possession, Peavy drew a charge that had his teammates rally to him and the fans make noise for the first time since the early minutes of the game.
Ultimately, Peavy finished with three steals on the night, all resulting in fast break points for TCU.
“It was a big thing for us to get this win and those steals were a big thing in that, Peavy said afterward. “Our defense in the first half was not as good, so we locked in the second half and got it done.”
The rest of the Frogs responded, with Xavier Cork making a strong move in the paint, Chuck O’Bannon with a steal, basket, and and-1.
The spark of offense led to a reinvigorated defense, and TCU took a 13-0 run to get right back into the game, capped by a corner three from Jakobe Coles that sent the Scholly into a frenzy.
“In practice, they always tell me if i’m open, shoot it,” Coles said after the win. “I worked real hard this summer when I had a knee injury and got a lot of shots up. I continue to get my jumper a lot better. I just try to be open for Mike and anybody who is driving, just try to give space to be open and knock down 3s or knock down layups or anything to help my team. I have confidence and the coaches pour a lot of confidence in me to do that, so I feel confident in my shot.”
Miles, who to that point had not made much of anything, turned it on when it matters most like great players tend to do. He scored 11 of his game-high 16 points in the final 9:33 of the game, helping TCU regain, then maintain, their lead.
Once again, TCU was solid from the free throw line, making 19 of their 25 attempts on the night. It was a point of emphasis in the offseason and it was a necessity tonight, albeit unexpectedly.
TCU now boards a plane for the SoCal Challenge next week, where they’ll square off against Santa Clara and Pepperdine.