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Monday Morning Point Guard: Heartbreak in Lawrence

Game-altering call with a minute left ruins Horned Frog’s chances of knocking off the Jayhawks.

TCU v Kansas Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

So close. So close to defeating the Jayhawks at the Phog for the second season in a row. Did Ernest Udeh Jr.’s inadvertent forearm to Hunter Dickinson’s face warrant a flagrant foul? Did Dickinson travel on his game-winning layup? These two instances summed up a hard-fought battle on both ends, but what could have been? A win for the Horned Frogs against second-ranked Kansas would have potentially propelled TCU into the top 25. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait another week to envision a top 25 ranking as the Horned Frogs have more opportunity to prove themselves. For now, we’ll dive into the good, the bad, and the play of the game against the Jayhawks.

The Good

Trey Tennyson: After one conference game, it’s clear that Trey Tennyson is essential to the Horned Frogs' success. Subtract Tennyson from the squad, and the Horned Frogs went 2-of-13 from long range. The former Islander knocked down 6-of-8 threes. A transfer from Texas A&M Corpus-Christi, Tennyson was perhaps the most overlooked newcomer this offseason. His 3-point shooting has been transcendent thus far for TCU. If Tennyson had not appeared in a game this season, the Horned Frogs would be shooting 60-of-204 from downtown... 29.4 percent, a bottom-40 mark in all College Basketball.

Tennyson adds a different dimension to TCU basketball. The Horned Frogs tend to stall in the half-court due to a lack of perimeter shooting and spacing. Tennyson alleviates these concerns. He does a fantastic job of coming off screens and shooting off the catch. The TCU guard is the only player on the roster who poses a threat from beyond the arc. On the night, he scored 24 points on 9-of-12 shooting. Tennyson also played the second most minutes of any Horned Frog. Look for Tennyson to play 30-plus minutes a game as his shooting is a necessity for Jaime Dixon’s Horned Frogs.

Guard play: Part of the terrific guard play, Tennyson truly had a breakout performance. His shooting and secondary ball handling have proved indispensable. Other than Tennyson, Jameer Nelson Jr. and Avery Anderson III played well. Though neither Horned Frog of the aforementioned players shot the ball well from distance, they moved the ball and played great perimeter defense.

Nelson Jr. and Anderson III combined for eight assists on the night. A recipe for a stalling half-court offense is breaking down defenses via drives. Both Horned Frogs use their tight handles to keep opposing defenses on their toes. Aside from their offensive performances, each player played fantastic defense. Anderson III racked up six steals, his career-high. Nelson Jr. notched three steals, just above his season average of 2.7 per game. The Delaware transfer’s defense looked fantastic against a top-tier opponent. In the future, Nelson Jr. may regain his starting role, but for now, it seems as if Anderson III and Nelson Jr. are equally playable in the lead guard spot.

Forcing turnovers: Coming into the game, the Jayhawks were a middling turnover squad. Before the clash against the Horned Frogs, Kansas had averaged 12.1 turnovers per game, a top-half ranking in the NCAA. After Saturday’s battle, the Jayhawks now rank 206th in the nation and 10th in the Big 12. TCU forced Kansas to commit 18 turnovers. The Horned Frogs recorded 16 steals and stymied Jayhawks guards and bigs all game long. Every Jayhawks to hit the floor committed at least one turnover. And the usual optimal-decision making Dajuan Harris Jr. recorded a season-high five turnovers.

TCU has time and time again demonstrated the ability to wreak havoc on opposing offenses. No matter the opponent, the Horned Frogs excel at forcing the action and creating turnovers. Despite a disjointed half-court offense, the Horned Frogs look at home when the game is in disarray. TCU looks best when out on the break and their penchant for forcing turnovers is the catalyst.

The Bad

Interior defense: Kansas starting bigs Hunter Dickinson and K.J. Adams Jr. combined for 48 points on 20-of-28 shooting. Dickinson is a nightmare matchup for any squad, but he looked on his A-game against TCU. The Horned Frogs used Udeh Jr., Essam Mostafa, and Xavier Cork to defend Dickinson. The typical approach taken was to front the big man, which in turn, ended in disaster. The Jayhawk center scored the final basket of the game after he caught an entry pass from Harris. It seems Dixon didn’t feel confident in letting Dickinson catch in the post as he opted to deny the entry pass.

Whenever Dickinson received an entry pass, he was easily able to score. Especially when fronted, the Kansas big man was often too deep in the paint, thus eliminating the usefulness of help defenders. The Horned Frogs did do a fine job of crowding Dickinson on the catch, but they may want to rethink their approach in the future. On the other hand, Adams Jr. is far less of a traditional big man. He did most of his damage off cuts and offensive boards. Far too often TCU players lost their matchups “ball-watching.”

Shooting (besides Tennyson): Likely a mainstay in “the bad” section, shooting continues to plague the Horned Frogs’ offense. Although looking at the box score makes it seem as if TCU shot it well, Tennyson was solely responsible for the Horned Frogs’ efficient shooting. Emanuel Miller isn’t the most confident perimeter shooter, but he does a great job of picking his spots.

The duo of Micah Peavy and Nelson Jr. are poor shooters who are forced to attempt more 3-pointers than they should be. While Nelson Jr. looked good from mid-range. his 3-point marksmanship leaves much to be desired. Nelson Jr. is shooting just 23.3 percent from distance this season. And not much better, Peavy shoots it just 25.6 percent from beyond the arc. Between the two Horned Frogs, they’re launching a combined 6.2 threes per game.

Rebounding: A usual strong suit of TCU, the Horned Frogs failed to make an impact on the glass. TCU was outrebounded 40-28 and dominated on the offensive glass. As mentioned above, Adams Jr. feasted on offensive rebounds. He continuously crashed the boards and reaped the rewards. As well as Adams Jr., Dickinson also had too many opportunities on the offensive glass. The Jayhawks recorded 15 second chance points against the Horned Frogs.

Both Adams Jr. and Dickinson recorded double-doubles in the afternoon. Adams Jr. hauled in 10 boards, while Dickinson corralled 11. No Horned Frog recorded more than five rebounds. Coming off an 18-rebound game, Udeh Jr. only managed to haul in four rebounds. It doesn’t all fall on Udeh Jr.’s shoulders, but he’ll likely need to average seven-plus rebounds per game in conference play.

The Play of the Game

Trey Tennyson’s 6th 3-pointer gives the Horned Frogs the lead with less than five minutes to go.