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TCU 81, Gonzaga 84: Dream Denied

Frogs surrender double-digit lead as Gonzaga 2nd half run downs TCU in NCAA Tournament Second Round

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament Second Round-Texas Christian vs Gonzaga Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

For the second straight season the TCU Horned Frogs went toe-to-toe with one of College Basketball’s most storied programs in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament and once again the Frogs fell just short, dropping an 81-84 result to the Gonzaga Bulldogs. TCU held a mid-way through the second half before Gonzaga scored 13 unanswered points over a 4-minute stretch to take a lead it would never surrender.

GU’s three-time consensus All-American Forward Drew Timme controlled the game, scoring a game-high 28 points, drawing fouls at a high rate, making just his third three-point attempt of the season, and generally being the on-court menace that has made him a household name in the sport. TCU did not have the size or the depth to match with Timme and the Bulldogs’ post play as the Frogs got out rebounded 36-43 while accumulating seven more fouls than the Zags, with Micah Peavy and JaKobe Coles fouling out. Mike Miles led the way for the Frogs with 24 points and 4 assists while fellow starters Damion Baugh & Emanuel Miller added a combined 29 points and 13 rebounds.

TCU came out guns blazing in the first half, sprinting out to a 10 point advantage, outscoring the Zags in the paint and showing an excellent defensive game plan to force Gonzaga into bad shots. TCU held the nation’s leading offense to just 2-14 from beyond the arc and 36% shooting in the first half. Despite the high level play from the Frogs on both sides of the court, TCU held only a five point advantage headed into the locker room and a worrying foul situation had developed as the Frogs were whistled for 13 first half fouls and what little big-man depth TCU had was already in foul trouble.

TCU held serve through eight minutes of the the 2nd half, as Mike Miles drilled a massive shot from downtown to return the Frogs’ advantage to 5 points

Unfortunately that would be the last made field goal for over four minutes of game time as Gonzaga would run off the next 13 points to jump to a seven point lead it wouldn’t give back. The momentum immediately flipped following that shot, as Shahada Wells was called for a phantom shooting foul on a Rasir Bolton jumper for the Zags to answer right back. On TCU’s ensuing possession Mike Miles found Wells cutting behind the defense for a layup, but the officials blew an inadvertent whistle and claimed a kick-ball had occurred (Narrator: a kick ball had not occurred). TCU was forced to reset its offense, resulting in a blocked Chuck O’Bannon shot to create a fast break Malachi Smith 3FG (thanks to a very clear Julian Strawther travel and double dribble violation that went uncalled directly in front of the official that called the “kick ball”) for the final lead change of the night. TCU had a several chances to overcome the 2nd Half deficit, but just could not get the critical shots to fall. The Frogs had it cut to two before a Coles three-point attempt at the seven minute mark could have re-taken the lead, but the miss led to a Smith three at the other end. Perhaps more painful was a Damion Baugh miss on the front end of a 1-and-1 free throw opportunity with 93 seconds remaining and the Frogs trailing by 5; that miss and the ensuing Bulldog made free throws down the stretch sealed the game, despite a flurry of activity in the final 10 seconds that allowed TCU to cover the 4.5-point spread.

TCU went away from what was working in the first half, attempting 21 shots from distance after shooting just 4 in the first half while getting absolutely blitzed on the fast break and on the glass. TCU was the nation’s leader in transition scoring, but got outscored in that category 24-10 on Sunday night. It may be the last time many of these Horned Frogs don the purple jerseys, as TCU is sure to turn over much of the roster that returned to Fort Worth for this season. If indeed this was the final TCU performance of Mike Miles Jr, Damion Baugh, Emanuel Miller, and Chuck O’Bannon, it was one hell of a curtain call as this group brought the TCU Basketball program to new heights that seemed unthinkable a few years ago. The bar has certainly been raised and now Jamie Dixon and his staff will enter the offseason looking to build on this success, rebuild the roster, and come back even stronger to achieve more in the 2023-24 season.