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Monday Morning Point Guard: First loss of the season

The Frogs suffered their first loss of the season at the hands of the undefeated Clemson Tigers

2023 Discount Tire Hall of Fame Series Toronto: TCU v Clemson Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

The Horned Frogs failed to pass their first real test of the season. After a breeze of a non-conference schedule thus far, TCU traveled to Emanuel Miller’s hometown of Toronto to take on the undefeated Clemson Tigers. After a huge win a week ago in the Nation’s Capital, Miller and the Horned Frogs looked to build off that momentum. However, the Horned Frogs looked lost on offense, failing to score more than 80 points for the first time this season. Although the Horned Frogs banded together on defense, they couldn’t muster much on the offensive end.

The Good

Opportunistic defense: The Horned Frogs forced 13 Clemson turnovers on the day. The TCU defense turned those giveaways into 15 points, about a fourth of TCU’s total points. TCU guards Micah Peavy and Jameer Nelson Jr. did a fantastic job of stepping passing lanes and hounding Clemson guards, forcing three steals a piece. Nelson Jr. is fifth in the nation in steals per game, at 3.1.

The 13 Clemson turnovers were a season-high for the Tigers. On the year, the Tigers are 46th in the nation in turnovers per game. TCU can force the least turnover-prone squads to make mistakes. The Horned Frogs do a great job of pressuring guards, doubling on post catches, and jumping passing lanes. The hard-pressed effort on defense will be essential for the Horned Frogs. A shaky half-court offense calls for an opportunistic defense, adept at forcing turnovers.

Getting to the line: Although the offense couldn’t muster much, especially in the half-court, the Horned Frogs got the line 17 times. TCU made 25 of their 33 attempts, shooting nearly 76 percent from the line. The Horned Frogs have now attempted 30 or more free throws on three separate occasions. Four Horned Frog starters attempted four or more freebies. Ernest Udeh and Miller each attempted eight shots from the charity stripe.

Despite a lack of outside shooting, more on that later, the Horned Frogs have a propensity to drive to the rim. Miller, Peavy, and Nelson Jr. are all adept at getting to the rim and finishing through contact. Udeh attempted eight free throws, many of which came after he snared an offensive rebound. Improving on free throw shooting should be key for Udeh’s development. His strength and athleticism are undeniable, yet his shooting leaves much to be desired. Udeh is a career 47.7 percent free throw shooter. Upping that average to at least 60 percent would be huge for Udeh’s maturation.

Offensive rebounding: A common theme amongst Jamie Dixon-led TCU squads, the Horned Frogs once again dominate on the offensive glass. Over the past three seasons, the Horned Frogs have ranked in the top 100 in the nation in offensive rebounds per game. And the aforementioned Udeh has much to do with it. The former Jayhawk corralled six offensive boards in only 17 minutes of action. He uses brute force and elite verticality to sky over opposing players for offensive rebounds. Other than Udeh, the Horned Frogs play two more bigs, Essam Mostafa and Xavier Cork. Although the backup bigs only combined for a single offensive rebound against Clemson, they combined to average 2.5 offense boards a game.

On the season, TCU ranks 101st in offensive rebounds per game, grabbing 12.0 per contest. Like previous years, offensive rebounding will be essential to the Horned Frog’s offensive identity. A lack of perimeter shooting and half-court structure will surely lead to an abundance of misses. Crashing the offensive glass is of grave importance if TCU aims at making a run come March.

The Bad

Outside shooting: As previously mentioned, TCU has excelled when it comes to transition scoring and offensive rebounding. But when it comes to half-court, the Horned Frogs have been abysmal in recent seasons. The lack of quality half-court offense can be attributed to poor shot-making. Against the Tigers, the Horned Frogs knocked down only 3-of-15 3-point attempts. On the year, the Horned Frogs rank 232nd out of 351 teams in 3-point accuracy. This trend is concerning because otherwise, the Horned Frogs are efficient scorers. TCU is 13th in the nation in field goal percentage.

Outside shooting has plagued the Horned Frogs for quite some time now. For example, a year ago, TCU ranked 334th in 3-point percentage. And before that? TCU ranked 332nd. To improve upon their shooting woes, TCU brought in guard Trey Tennyson, a career 38.5 percent shooter from beyond the arc. This season, Tennyson ranks second on the squad in 3-point accuracy, shooting 43.5 percent from distance. The current starting five of Nelson Jr., Peavy, Miller, Coles, and Udeh lacks quality 3-point shooters. Coles is shooting a scorching 52.4 percent but on just 2.6 attempts per game. Substituting Tennyson in for Peavy might be the jolt the starting five needs.

Playmaking: Partially due to porous outside shooting, the Horned Frogs were unable to score off assists. TCU only totaled 10 assists all afternoon. While this game may have been an aberration, it could also be a sign of what’s yet to come. Prior to Saturday, the Horned Frogs played an easy schedule, racking up assists along the way. TCU ranks fourth in the nation, averaging 20.6 assists per game. While no Horned Frogs average four or more assists per game, four average more than 1.9 per contest.

However, against Clemson, playmaking was not so evident. Shooters were hesitant to take shots, which led to the lack of assists on the day. Six of the 10 assists led to outside makes. Two of those assists led to 3-point makes. The more the merrier for the Horned Frogs. If TCU continues to pass like they have against lesser competition, the easy buckets will continue to come. But if the Horned Frogs remain hesitant from the outside, assists will be harder to come by.

Defensive rebounding: Oddly enough, the Horned Frogs lost the rebounding battle. Even though TCU won on the offensive glass, the Horned Frogs were outrebounded 30-to-23 on the defensive end. Partially due to the Horned Frogs shooting woes, Clemson dominated on the defensive glass. The Horned Frogs missed an astonishing 40 shots on the night, which led to numerous defensive rebounding opportunities for the Tigers. Not much more can be said for the Horned Frogs. Continued poor shooting will equate to more and more losses in the rebounding battle.

Play of the Game

Micah Peavy’s early steal and slam epitomizes TCU basketball. Defense and transition offense.