For yet another night on the hardwood, the Horned Frogs failed to play a full, competitive sixty minutes, losing to the Auburn Tigers 88-80 Saturday night at the Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena in Fort Worth.
The Frogs kept it close and even enjoyed a few brief leads well into the second half, but TCU would go into a shell midway through the frame as the Tigers embarked on a 26-2 run to put the game out of reach. TCU would claw its way back in the closing minutes to cut the deficit to single digits, but by then there was simply not enough time left on the clock for the Frogs to avoid their fourth straight loss.
“We’re on a slide here and we’ve got to go figure it out,” TCU head coach Jamie Dixon said. “We’re disappointed and there’s no other way to put it.”
Four TCU players finished the night with double-digit points, including a 19 point performance from forward Vladimir Brodziansky and 20 points from guard Alex Robinson. That however wouldn’t offset a night that saw the Frogs shoot just 45 percent from the line and 25 percent from downtown (5-20).
“I’m just very disappointed by how we played,” Dixon said. “Auburn had a big loss the other night and they responded and I thought we’d do the same thing with our level, and we didn’t do it.”
With that, we evaluate what went wrong for the Frogs, who fell to 14-7 on the season.
Free-Throw Free Fall
For all the struggles the Frogs had Saturday night, TCU’s inability to make shots at the line may have been the most staggering, only draining 9-of-20 attempts for a dismal 45 percent. Considering Auburn only shot 60 percent at the line themselves, the 11 points lost in missed free throws only sting that much more.
“That weighed on us,” Dixon said. “Interestingly enough we didn’t shoot it very well in shoot around earlier. We had to shoot them a little more and we didn’t make them, and it carried over.”
The inability for TCU to cash in off of fouls comes as a bit of a surprise too, considering the Frogs shot 91 percent from the line in their loss to Oklahoma State in Stillwater earlier in the week. The Frogs have had their struggles with free throws before, but that doesn’t take away the shock from tonight given how polar opposite TCU’s performance at the line was last time around.
Foul trouble and beyond
TCU guard Kenrich Williams fouled out with a considerable amount of time remaining in the second half Saturday night, a considerable loss for the Frogs, and that was just a fraction of the 23 fouls that TCU committed in the loss. Auburn was only able to cash in for 12 points off those fouls, but the Frogs’ giveaways and inability to get defensive rebounds and hit three pointers came at a cost, as Auburn recorded 19 points off turnovers and 20 on second point chances, opposed to TCU’s mere nine points off offensive rebounds.
“We gave them layups, we couldn’t guard the dribble, and we gave them possessions with rebounds,” Dixon said. “Our 18 turnovers were 18 bad turnovers. I didn’t think it was possible that we could turn it over 18 times.”
Dixon added that the hefty amount of missed shots, 31 to be exact, also contributed to a lack of focus among the players.
“When we miss shots it affects everything we do,” Dixon said. “It filtered into the free throws and now we’re looking at our stats feeling sorry for ourselves. We’ve got to look at ourselves and get more stuff done in practice.”
The second half slump
It’s a pattern that one can’t help but overlook: The Frogs have developed a tendency in this skid to squander small late-game leads, typically via a large run for the opponent. Last Saturday against Baylor, it was an 8-0 run when TCU led by one with less than five minutes to play. In Stillwater on Monday, a late four-point lead vanished when Oklahoma State went on a 12-2 run. And tonight was the whopper, as TCU’s 57-55 lead vanished for good when the Tigers went on a 26-2 run to put TCU down 21 points before the Frogs finally found some momentum when it was too late.
“Obviously the run broke it open but I never felt good about what we were doing defensively,” Dixon said. “It was a sign of things to come.”
A domino effect?
While TCU has made tremendous strides when it comes to success in the grand scheme of things, the Frogs are in uncharted territory this season as they sit on a season-high four-game losing streak after tonight. What’s noticeable is that each loss has seemingly been uglier than the last one, whether it be the ending of the game or the overall effort.
“Everybody goes through a bad stretch and honestly this was the worst one of the four from how we played,” Dixon said. “The other losses, which were road losses to teams with high RPIs are okay, but this is a home loss, and it will put us back."
Dixon said Saturday’s lackluster performance may have been a matter of losses and poor shooting catching up to the team – a domino effect in all essence.
“When we shoot the ball there’s just not the same feeling right now and I feel like it’s passing on to other things,” Dixon said. “You can just feel the shoulders dropping and heads going down and it’s four games straight. Our shooting percentages from then to now is a pretty big differential.”
Whether it be shooting, a lack of confidence or both, the Frogs hope they can find the cure sooner than later as Big 12 play continues this next week.
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The Frogs’ next chance to get back in the win column will be Wednesday night, as the team heads up to Manhattan, Kansas to take on the Kansas State Wildcats (15-6). Tip-off at the Fred Bramlage Coliseum is set for 6:30 p.m. CDT.