TCU Men’s Basketball came away with a much needed 81-78 win over Oklahoma State to bring their five game losing streak to an end in emphatic fashion.
The crowd was hype, there were a million (11) lead changes, and there was even a last second and-one to win the game; what more could we ask for? The atmosphere in Schollmaier Arena tonight was electric; “it felt like a sold out crowd,” said RJ Nembhard. I haven’t seen the crowd that loud and involved since before social distancing was even a thing.
The Frogs played with a vengeance tonight following a heartbreaking loss last time out against Mizzou, which is exactly the type of performance this team needed. “We are definitely catching our rhythm, even though we lost our last two games we came out looking like a different team tonight,” said Jaedon Ledee, who hit the game winner for the Frogs.
This game was neck and neck from the opening tip-off until the final buzzer. Despite allowing a couple double-digit runs, the Frogs never quit. At one point in the first half, TCU turned the ball over on three consecutive possessions allowing the Cowboys to go on an 11-0 run over 2:50 of gametime.
How did they respond? By going on a run of their own thanks to a few key plays from Mike Miles, who had one hell of a night. Miles finished with 18 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 assists after playing an impressive 36 minutes.
The first half was a back and forth battle ending in a 34-34 stalemate. The biggest narrative of the first half was Oklahoma State star guard and potential no. 1 draft pick Cade Cunningham putting up a whopping 0 points on 0-2 shooting. Sure, Cunningham sat a few minutes due to foul trouble, but the Frogs shut him down early thanks to some impressive defense from Mike Miles and the big men Kevin Samuel and Jaedon Ledee.
The second half was when things got really fun. TCU went on a 9-1 run roughly ten minutes into the half to give them their largest lead of the night. The Frogs led 56-46 at that point, but the Cowboys just wouldn’t go away.
It’s tough to say whether the crowds ‘overrated’ chants directed at Cade Cunningham helped or hurt the frogs in the long run. At first, Cunningham had back-to-back turnovers before going zero dark thirty on the Frogs and putting up 19 second-half points. “You would hate to do that only to lose, so thankfully we won,” said Jamie Dixon on the ‘overrated’ chants.
Despite Cunningham’s big 2nd half, TCU was able to stick with the Cowboys behind RJ Nembhard’s 20 point, 5 rebound, and 7 assist performance. The first time the Frogs faced OK. State this season ended in nearly identical fashion — a last second game winner for the Frogs, though Nembhard scored it the first time around. Tonight, the spotlight fell on Ledee.
In that situation — a tie game with less than 10 seconds left — the common thing to do is call a timeout and discuss how the final shot will be taken. Coach Dixon said he nearly called a timeout to talk things over, but ended up letting his guys play on as soon as he saw a wide open Jaedon Ledee down the wing. It’s safe to say that decision worked out.
There was no set play, nothing drawn up for the Frogs’ star players to take the last second shot, nothin’. Dixon trusted his guys to make the right play and they came through.
“It’s huge knowing that anyone could step up and that we all have trust in each other,” said Nembhard. “When he got that and-one I already knew he was going to make the free throw.”
In the post-game interviews, Coach Dixon focused on the fact that tonight’s win is huge for the team’s confidence and momentum going forward.
“We got out of the Kansas game with some confidence,” said Dixon. “This league [Big 12] is not great for confidence, especially when you are a young team missing some guys.”
The Frogs are finally out of their slump and will look to continue their winning ways for the remainder of the season. Like Dixon said, the Big 12 isn’t great for confidence, so TCU’s mojo will be put to the test this Saturday as they travel to Waco to take on the no. 2 Baylor Bears.