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Monday Morning Point Guard: TCU records back-to-back top-10 wins

First, the Horned Frogs defeated No. 9 Oklahoma at home. Then, TCU knocked off No. 2 Houston.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 13 Houston at TCU Photo by Chris Leduc/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s time to take these Horned Frogs as Big 12 Title contenders. After a narrow loss to the #2 Kansas Jayhawks in Lawrence, TCU defeated No. 9 Oklahoma and No. 2 Houston in Fort Worth. The Horned Frogs looked like the better squad for the entirety of the night against the Sooners. Although the Horned Frogs shot worse from the floor, they took six more shot attempts than Oklahoma.

And TCU did what they do best. The Horned Frogs played with speed and aggression. The Horned Frogs forced 13 turnovers and scored 25 points off Oklahoma giveaways. Although the Horned Frogs only managed a nine-point win, they had led by 17 points with two minutes to go.

Saturday was TCU’s breakout performance. Later today, the Horned Frogs will likely find themselves as a top-25 squad. TCU fought hard against Houston, trailing by as many as 12 points in the first half. The Horned Frogs fought back to nearly even the score at halftime. The second half went back and forth before a late basket by Emanuel Miller finished the Cougars for good.

The Good

Perimeter defense: The Horned Frogs are stifling when pressuring the ball. Avery Anderson III, Micah Peavy, and Jameer Nelson Jr. are all fantastic perimeter defenders. Both Anderson III and Nelson Jr. recorded multi-steal games over the past week. And perhaps most importantly, Peavy notched a game-clinching steal against second-ranked Houston. Opposing guards have struggled mightily against the Horned Frogs this season, and this week was no different.

First, against Oklahoma, Javian McCollum turned the ball over a season-high six times. McCollum’s teammate, Otega Oweh, scored a season-low six points and went 2-of-8 from the field on Wednesday night. The Horned Frogs did a fantastic job of keeping each Sooner in check. Oklahoma shot 7-of-25 from 3-point range on the night, a 28 percent mark, seven percentage points below their season average.

Then, on Saturday, the Horned Frogs defense came to play, matching Houston's tenacity. The Cougars’ guard trio of L.J. Cryer, Jamal Shead, and Emanuel Sharp combined to go 9-of-30 from the floor and 3-of-14 from beyond the arc. To further eliminate guard play, head coach Jamie Dixon employed a full-court press to force the ball out of the perimeter player’s hands and force the Houston bigs to make decisions.

Drawing fouls: In both affairs, the Horned Frogs took more than 20 free throws. TCU shot 17-of-22 from the line against the Sooners. And despite attempting 22 freebies, no Horned Frog attempted more than four free throws. Getting to the line was a team effort, as it’s been this season for the Horned Frogs. All Horned Frogs seem to get to the line with ease. The experienced bunch of guards, wings, and forwards on the TCU roster are relentless finishers with excellent body control. Star forward Emanuel Miller epitomizes relentlessness with his play. He’s a downhill driver who can finish at the rim, or outside the restricted area using a wide array of floaters.

Free throw shooting looked quite different during Saturday’s affair. Instead of drawing shooting fouls, the Horned Frogs drew a combination of blocks and reach-ins, taking advantage of Houston’s propensity for aggressive defense. TCU guards used strength and wits to abstain from turning the ball over. The Horned Frogs made the Cougars look like a foul-happy squad. Rather than forcing copious amounts of turnovers, like they usually do (10th in the nation), the Cougars resorted to fouling Horned Frog players all night long.

3-point shooting: A notoriously poor-shooting squad, the Horned Frogs surprisingly shot it well against Houston and adequately against Oklahoma. Although a 29.2 percent clip against the Sooners isn’t the most appealing, it’s progress when noting Trey Tennyson went 0-of-5 from 3-point range. Subtract the sharpshooting Tennyson and the Horned Frogs nailed almost 37 percent of 3-point attempts. Miller and Anderson III have been reluctant to shoot threes in the past, but both players knocked down threes in each game.

Across the two contests, Miller went 4-of-7 from beyond the arc, while Anderson III went 3-of-7. And despite a poor showing against Oklahoma, Tennyson once again displayed his dominance against top-ranked squads. Tennyson knocked down 4-of-6 3-pointers against the Cougars. He looked confident every time he touched the ball and proved vital to the Horned Frogs’ success once again. Other than these three players, Nelson Jr., Peavy, and Chuck O’Bannon Jr. all knocked down 3-pointers this past week.

The Bad

Free throw shooting: The Horned Frogs do a fantastic job of drawing fouls and getting to the line. But converting freebies is an entirely different story. Although the Horned Frogs shot better than their season average on Wednesday, the percentages were horrendous against the Cougars. TCU shot 55.2 percent from the free-throw line on Saturday. Despite the abundance of attempts (29), the Horned Frogs only converted 16.

Ernest Udeh Jr. and Jameer Nelson Jr. missed four free throws apiece. Udeh Jr.’s free throw misses almost proved to be catastrophic. With just over two minutes to go, the Horned Frogs trailed the Cougars by the score of 62-61. Udeh Jr. grabbed an offensive board and drew a foul upon attempting a put-back. He went 0-of-2 from the line before getting another opportunity at the charity stripe just two seconds later for a 1-and-1. Again, Udeh Jr. clanked a free throw, erasing the opportunity to build a two-point lead.

Interior defense: After struggling against Hunter Dickinson and the Kansas Jayhawks, the Horned Frogs once again proved to be inferior on the interior. Sooner forward Sam Godwin might have had a big impact if not for foul trouble. In just 13 minutes, he scored seven points and grabbed four boards. Godwin’s backup, John Hugley IV, scored 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting. The Horned Frogs have a triumvirate at center, but none of the bigs are well-rounded. Udeh Jr. is a fantastic athlete who flies around, but he lacks positional awareness. Xavier Cork is a fine player, but better suited for a backup role. Essam Mostafa is burly but lacks the requisite foot speed to hedge in the pick-and-roll and rotate to defend the rim.

Although TCU allowed only 67 points to the Cougars, Houston finished with 40 points in the paint. Typically, the Cougars relied on the guard trio of Cryer, Shead, and Sharp to score a bevy of points. On Saturday, forward J’Wan Roberts led the Cougars in scoring, with a season-high 20 points. Roberts also grabbed six offensive rebounds on the night, dominating the paint. TCU does a great job of harassing guards and perimeter players, but the help defense tends to be slow once opposing players attack the rim. And far too often, forwards and centers get easy buckets due to one-on-one matchups down low.

The Play of the Week

Emanuel Miller’s game-winning layup against Houston came from a gorgeous Avery Anderson III pass.