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Monday Morning Point Guard: Road Warriors

Two wins, two losses, and now back-to-back wins for the Horned Frogs.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 27 TCU at Baylor Photo by David Buono/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The TCU Horned Frogs bounced back mightily after consecutive losses. First, TCU beat the Oklahoma State Cowboys by five points in Stillwater. Next, the Horned Frogs traveled about 90 miles south to take on the Baylor Bears in Waco. TCU defeated Baylor in a triple-overtime thriller, by the score of 105-102.

The Big 12 has been a gauntlet thus far. After losing a heartbreaker to the Kansas Jayhawks, TCU turned around to defeat two, top-10 squads in the same week, Oklahoma, then Houston. However, the success was short-lived. The Horned Frogs struggled in matchups against Cincinnati and Iowa State as turnovers doomed TCU from the get-go.

TCU reversed course against the Cowboys and the Bears. TCU only averaged 11.0 turnovers per game this past week. A massive improvement after averaging 23.0 turnovers the week prior. It’s truly a testament to the ball handlers, as no guard on the roster turned the ball over more than two times in either of this past week’s games. It’s worth keeping tabs on turnovers all season long, as giveaways have been one of the few downfalls of the Frogs’ season. Besides a lack of 3-point shooting, TCU is a very well-rounded squad that plays with the utmost intensity.

The two games this past week were both wins, but each affair was drastically different. Instead of a “Wednesday Morning Point Guard” or a “Sunday Morning Point Guard” edition, we’ll continue to assess these Horned Frogs weekly.

The Good

Multiple alpha scorers: Perhaps this section should be titled “Jameer Nelson Jr.,” but instead Nelson Jr. will be grouped with Emanuel Miller. Both players have shown the willingness to take over down the stretch, something TCU was searching for after the departure of Mike Miles Jr.

Against Oklahoma State, Nelson Jr. only scored three points in 16 minutes of action. The senior forward was the star. Miller scored 21 points and brought down 11 boards. He also displayed his improved passing chops, dishing out four assists on the night. Miller missed a couple late free throws, but he proved to be clutch down the stretch. A Miller lay-up stretched the lead to five with a little over a minute left, before a free throw with 19 seconds to go iced the game.

Against Baylor, Miller yet again scored 21 points. However, Nelson Jr. was the star. The younger Jameer scored 30 points on 11-of-18 shooting. He was also excellent from the line, knocking down 7-of-8 freebies. Nelson Jr. took over down the stretch. He scored six straight points in under a minute, in triple overtime. The fifth-year guard demonstrated his innate ability to get to the rim and force contact. He has a shifty handle and elevates well when he gets to the rim to score over or around defenders. Nelson Jr.’s last bucket was Miller-esque. He drove to the right and missed a tough floater, but he followed his miss and instantaneously put up a left-handed layup. With Nelson Jr. and Miller, the Horned Frogs have two late-game scorers capable of creating shots off drives and face-ups.

Paint scoring: The Horned Frogs’ efficient shooting goes hand-in-hand with their propensity for paint scoring. TCU ranks third in the Big 12 in field goal percentage at 49.0 percent. This past week, the Horned Frogs recorded 52.6 percent shooting in both contests. TCU dominated the paint against the Cowboys, scoring 46 of their 74 points from the paint.

On Saturday, the Horned Frogs scored fewer points in the paint, as they knocked down five more 3-points and six more free throws. However, they still managed to score 42 points in the paint against the Bears. TCU exploited the porous Baylor defense, getting off a plentiful amount of looks from around the rim and in the mid-range. Miller, Nelson Jr., and Micah Peavy all got to the rim off the bounce or using cuts.

The Bad

Consistency: The Horned Frogs play every game close. But, the results differ vastly from game to game. TCU took care of the ball and played hounding defense against both Oklahoma and Houston. Then, the Frogs played as carelessly as possible against both Cincinnati and Iowa State. Additionally, the defensive intensity seemed to fall off against both the aforementioned squads. And, the lack of intensity made its way into the first half of last Tuesday’s game. TCU started slow against the Cowboys, allowing 37 first-half points and beginning the game mercifully slow.

The Horned Frogs aren’t a good shooting team. While they did shoot above 50 percent in both affairs, they knocked down 20.0 percent of their 3-pointers against Oklahoma State, before nailing 40.0 percent of their treys against Baylor. The lack of consistent shooting can be attributed to Trey Tennyson. That’s not to say Tennyson is a bad shooter, he’s an incredible shooter. It’s to say that the entire team relies on Tennyson’s 3-point shooting. Therefore, if Tennyson has an off-game, the Horned Frogs are doomed from deep.

Such an instance occurred against the Cowboys. The TCU guard went 1-of-7 from beyond the arc, which contributed to the Frogs’ poor shooting night. Four days later, Tennyson drilled 4-of-7 shots from distance. Coincidentally, TCU made 8-of-20 attempts from 3-point land. Shooting tends to come and go, but intensity is a more controllable factor. The lack of intensity hurt TCU in two-and-half contests. If the Horned Frogs continue their vigorous play, the wins should pile up.

Slow starts: Although more of a Tuesday night matter, slow starts have plagued the Horned Frogs for quite some time. TCU looked uninterested to begin play against Oklahoma State, allowing a 17-point first-half lead. The Horned Frogs lacked intensity on both sides of the court. TCU looked lackadaisical on defense, failing to cut off driving lanes and close out on shooters. It took the Horned Frogs most of the first half to lock in. After allowing 29 points in 12 minutes, TCU closed out the half with only eight points in eight minutes.

Baylor was by no means a slow start, but TCU still trailed at the half. It took the Horned Frogs six minutes to score seven points. Luckily, the defense held the Bears to only seven points in that same period. TCU led by three points with five minutes to go in the first half. Then, the Horned Frogs ceded the first-half lead, allowing the Bears to score 14 points in only four minutes.

In seven Big 12 contests, the Horned Frogs have only led at halftime twice. In those two games, TCU won one and lost the other in overtime. While some of the halftime leads have been narrow, any advantage at halftime helps the confidence of the squad entering the latter part of the game. Look for head coach Jamie Dixon to push the tempo in the first half of games, itching for a lead, rather than a halftime deficit.

The Play of the Week

TCU’s Nelson Jr. capped off 55 minutes’ worth of action against Baylor with a game-sealing offensive-rebound and subsequent putback.