Down goes Kansas!
For the first time in program history, TCU Basketball has won back-to-back games against ranked opponents after beating the No. 6 ranked Kansas Jayhawks 74-64.
With only two regular-season games remaining before the Big 12 tournament tips off, one of those being against Kansas AGAIN tomorrow, the Frogs picked a perfect time to start getting hot.
After four top 25 wins, six Quadrant 1 wins, and two statement games against two of the best and most put together teams in the country; The Frogs are going dancing. Although we’ll have to wait just over a week for selection Sunday to confirm, TCU is currently slotted as a 9-seed in Joe Lunardi’s latest bracketology report and I would be astonished to see this team be left out.
Simply put, the Frogs wanted it more against the Jayhawks. The energy in the Schollmaier was unlike anything I’ve seen before, the big men were dominating the boards, and the guards did a fantastic job of making smart basketball plays and limiting turnovers. All around this was one of the Frogs' best team performances, if not the best, of the season.
“From the students, from the coaches. For my boy Harry, the managers, especially Harry on senior night, to get this done in front of our home crowd, the last home game of the season, it means everything,” said Emmanual Miller, who finished with 11 points and 7 rebounds in the win.
Miller continued his celebratory remarks with a bold statement: “We’re one of the best teams in this country. I stand firmly on that. My teammates stand firmly on that.”
After the way the Frogs played last night, it’s hard to argue with him. If TCU plays like they did against Texas Tech and Kansas, this squad could compete with anyone come tournament time.
Don’t get me wrong though, last night’s win against Kansas was no walk in the park. The Frogs battled for all 40 minutes and came through in the clutch. After being down by six with just over 13 minutes left to play, the Frogs went on a 13-5 run highlighted by a couple of big shots from Mike Miles.
So how exactly did the Frogs pioneer this small comeback to dominate in the second half? Limiting turnovers and sound defending. TCU finished with just 7 turnovers, their lowest mark of the season, and put up numbers on the defensive end with 7 blocks and 4 steals as a team.
Despite shooting only 20% from 3-PT range (3-15), the Frogs made up for it in other areas like second-chance points and rebounding. TCU had more than double KU’s second-chance points (13-5) and easily outrebounded the Jayhawks 47-35.
“They really bought in,” said head coach Jamie Dixon. “You could see it this last week, you could just kind of see this coming. I told them, it wasn’t about making shots, it’s about taking care of the basketball and rebounding.”
Closing out games when holding a lead in the second half has been somewhat of a challenge from time to time this season, but the Frogs pulled together and hit some clutch free throws to shut down any hope KU had for a last-minute comeback.
Damion Baugh singlehandedly made 7 of 8 free throws in the last 51 seconds to seal the deal, meanwhile Eddie Lampkin was responsible for hyping up the near sell-out crowd, which is what he does best.
Although Eddie’s performance may not have been eye-popping on the stat sheet with just 2-points on 1-4 shooting, Lampkin’s presence was felt and made a huge difference in this game. Eddie finished with 9 rebounds and an assist, but most importantly he averaged an “EDDIE, EDDIE, EDDIE” chant from the student section nearly every five minutes.
The Eddie chants were one thing, but there is no exaggeration when I say it felt like a small earthquake was registered nearly every time the Frogs scored a bucket.
“The fans, the number we’ve had for the size of our school. It’s amazing,” said Dixon. “Marketing has done a great job. Rory, Barstool Sports. But I do think our kids, our players, their personalities, they’re outgoing.”
Without a stellar performance from Mike Miles though, I’m not so sure the Frogs would have even been in the position to close out the game. Miles finished with 19 points, 6 assists, and about 5 SportsCenter Top 10 worthy plays.
“I feel like it’s always those one or two teams that peak going into March,” said Miles. “I feel like we’re one of those teams, our last two games showed that. We’ve just been playing good basketball, making the extra pass, rebounding and playing defense and our last two wins show that. I’m just happy to be a part of it.”
With the Horned Frogs' second NCAA tournament bid under Jamie Dixon just over the horizon, both Coach Dixon and the players echoed the idea that the teams’ “chip on their shoulder” is still there, regardless of back-to-back top 10 wins.
“8th. We were picked 8th,” said Miller. “We will never forget that. In the summer, we knew that going in and we’re responding. We’re stepping up to the plate.”
Dixon agreed by adding: “We still have a chip on our shoulder, we’re still the underdog. And that’s how we’ve got to prepare.”
TCU will look to continue this recent momentum with yet another upset win as the Frogs take on Kansas in Lawrence again this Thursday at 7:00 p.m. CST.