After leading by 11 in the first half and trailing by 11 in the second half, the TCU Horned Frogs found a hero in the final seconds of its opening round contest against the Arizona State Sun Devils in Denver on Friday night as JaKobe Coles’s driving floater fell true through the net to send TCU to the Second Round for a second consecutive season.
TCU WINS IT— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessMBB) March 18, 2023
THE HORNED FROGS SURVIVE AND ADVANCE ‼️ pic.twitter.com/hssP4C7NIs
It was an unlikely way for the game to end, as Arizona State is one of the best defensive teams in the nation against 2-point attempts, ranking 6th overall in 2-point FG%, with the shot-blocking seven-footer Warren Washington patrolling the lane. ASU put that 2-point defending on full display Friday night, as TCU was just 13-38 from inside the arc before Coles’ game-winner. The player taking the shot may have seemed an unlikely hero as well, as all of America likely expected a play to develop for Mike Miles Jr. who had a phenomenal game, 26 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 0 turnovers) despite hobbling off late in the first half after appearing to re-aggravate his knee injury after returning to earth from a monster fast break slam. But in the key moment, Miles showed his growth as a court general, deferring to Coles who drove right at Washington and splashed the teardrop right in the bucket over his outstretched hand and beyond the double team from Desmond Cambridge Jr.
TCU sprinted out of the gate, scoring directly off the opening tip and building a big lead early before the Sun Devils caught fire; ASU shot 31% from long range during the season, but made 60% in the first half, and finished 8-17 (47.1%), well above its typical performance. Just before halftime, Mike Miles ran out on a fast break and powered home a statement dunk, but takes an uncalled push from Alonzo Gaffney that puts his landing off balance, resulting in a scary looking knee tweak. The Frogs stumbled into the break, allowing consecutive threes from Desmond Cambridge & DJ Horne to give ASU a seven-point halftime advantage.
The second half was a sluggish start for the Frogs, allowing the Devils to run out to an 11-point lead four minutes into the period. Something happened during that Media Timeout, because when the Frogs returned to the court, it’s defense finally arrived as four consecutive Sun Devil possessions came up empty and Mike Miles was sent to the Free Throw line making 5-6 attempts in those 90 seconds; he finished 12-14 from the charity stripe. Chuck O’Bannon continues to deliver on his Mr. March moniker, delivering 15 points and three offensive rebounds. Damion Baugh was held scoreless in the first half but drilled three massive three-pointers in the second half to prevent the game from ever running away from the Frogs, including a game-tying triple with under two minutes to play. The game remained tied at 67 until Baugh stole the ball off of Washington and baited Desmond Cambridge into a foul with 34 seconds to play, making both FTs. As Frankie Collins was driving for the game-tying layup, Xavier Cork released from his switch to track back and block the attempt, with Miles cleaning up the glass. ASU was forced to foul Miles, who made 1 of 2 FTs to give the Frogs a three point lead and a window of life to the Sun Devils. ASU’s DJ Horne leapt through that window, breaking down Rondel Walker on the dribble to create huge separation for a step-back jumper that tied the game at 70. Jamie Dixon called a timeout with 13 seconds remaining, staring at the possibility of again going to overtime with another Arizonan opponent in the NCAA Tournament. Not this time, as Miles found Coles and TCU finds itself in the Round of 32 for consecutive seasons, winning games in back-to-back Tournaments for the first time since 1952-53.
TCU will next face the 3-seed Gonzaga Bulldogs and Consensus First Team All-American Forward Drew Timme on Sunday in Denver with tip-off scheduled for 8:40 PM Central on TBS. The winner will advance to the Sweet 16 vs. the winner of Northwestern-UCLA. The Zags are West Coast Conference regular season and tournament champions and have advanced to the Sweet 16 in seven straight Tournaments.