The Frogs faced off against the Mountaineers coming off of a tough road loss to Mississippi State in the Big 12/SEC challenge. If the loss to Mississippi State wasn’t enough, star point guard Mike Miles Jr. suffered a hyperextended knee that caused him to miss the game against West Virginia. The Mountaineers were coming off of a big-time win at home over the then-15th-ranked Auburn Tigers. West Virginia won the last meeting between the two teams in Morgantown in a game where the Frogs turned the ball over 19 times.
The Frogs would also have a less than 100% healthy Eddie Lampkin who suffered an ankle sprain in a game against Kansas. Lampkin returned to the court against West Virginia and had some very good minutes off the bench for TCU. The Frogs played a great game on both ends of the floor with a balanced scoring attack with 4 players scoring at least 15 points. The Frogs secured the win in icy conditions in Fort Worth despite a bit of difficulty closing out the game with a final score of 76-72.
Winning without your best player is obviously never easy and this team effort for a win was proof that the Frogs should be able to stay afloat while Miles recovers.
Both offenses started off hot, getting to the basket and finishing layups with ease. Shahada Wells made a layup with a foul and West Virginia started off with a dunk by Jimmy Bell Jr. This would set the trend for the Frogs as they did a very good job with shot selection all night as they took only 10 threes on the night and took most of their shots in the paint. In the last matchup with West Virginia, the Frogs got dominated on the boards, losing the rebounding battle 32-18.
This time was different as Xavier Cork had arguably his best game of the season highlighted by a poster dunk that should be very high on the Sportscenter top 10 plays tomorrow. Cork finished with 15 points on 6-6 from the field and 3-4 from the free throw line to go along with 4 rebounds and 2 blocks. The Frogs did a great job getting out and running in transition in the first half as Damion Baugh and Wells were excellent at taking outlet passes and pushing the ball down the floor.
Production in the halfcourt offense has been somewhat inconsistent for TCU this season and Jamie Dixon relayed the message to get easy buckets in transition whenever possible. The Frogs have a lot of athleticism on their roster and some very talented passers that can get distribute the ball well in an uptempo game. Baugh especially showcased excellent court vision on the fastbreak as well as in the halfcourt. He finished with 10 assists along with 16 points and 6 rebounds while shooting a perfect 4-4 from the free throw line. Micah Peavy had a strong first half off the bench as well, providing excellent defense, knocking down a three, and getting to the foul line. Peavy has looked much more confident taking jump shots this season and his development as a shooter could be a very important addition for the Frogs who struggle at times to make threes.
TCU finished the half up 36-32 after a great pass by Eddie Lampkin set up a Jakobe Coles layup with about 1 second left in the half.
The Frogs started off the second half attacking the basket even more as Xavier Cork got to the line and Baugh made a couple of layups in the first few possessions for TCU. Wells had a strong second half for TCU, knocking down a three and making a nice steal on the defensive end to set up a fastbreak layup for himself. Coles had a great game overall, including a strong second half, in which he created great looks at the rim with strong cuts off the ball.
A good way to take create shots in the halfcourt offense is to have good offball movement and Coles has done a great job of moving without the ball this year. Coles finished with 17 points on an efficient 60% from the field and 80% from the line with a couple of very nice reverse layups to avoid West Virginia shot blockers. TCU had an 11 point lead with about 4 minutes to play in the second half but struggled a bit down the stretch to put the Mountaineers away.
This game hopefully will be a learning point for the team going forward on how to ensure late game leads continue to the final buzzer as the Frogs made some very fixable errors that allowed the final score to be closer than what it probably should have been. The most important fix would be to avoid fouling when teams are trying to get back in the game. The referees did appear to start calling a somewhat tighter game down the stretch that what had been called earlier in the game, but the Frogs need to take the decision out of the referees hands in the future and stay more disciplined down the stretch.
The Mountaineers shot 11 of their 19 total free throws in the last 4 minutes of the game, giving them a chance to score without the clock running and a chance to set up their defense and limit the Frogs’ best offensive weapon in the fast break. The Frogs did a solid job knocking down free throws down the stretch and ended up winning the game by two possession.
The Frogs played to their strengths in this game as they looked to get to the rim first and limited bad shots from the perimeter. They did a great job rebounding as a team even with their best rebounder being hobbled with an ankle injury and played very good defense agaisnt a West Virginia team that can get hot from three. The offense moved the ball well and there were a few big time highlight plays with an incredible one handed catch and simultaneous pass from Damion Baugh and obviously the posterizer from Cork. Hopefully Eddie can get back to full strength soon and resume his position with Cork as one of the best big man rotations in the Big 12.
TCU has a very tough stretch of games ahead of them as they will travel to Stillwater on Saturday to play the Cowboys before heading to the Little Apple to play Kansas State next Tuesday. They get a home game the following Saturday against Baylor before traveling to Ames for a rematch with Iowa State.
The game against Oklahoma State is a very important one to win for TCU before they play 3 straight ranked teams most likely without their star point guard Mike Miles.