After dropping the past two games at home, the Horned Frogs were finally able to pull away in the second half Saturday afternoon en route to a 78-63 win over Texas in front of a packed house at the Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena in Fort Worth.
On a day that saw TCU basketball great Kurt Thomas have his jersey sent permanently to the rafters, the Frogs recorded one of their most dominant outings of the season, trailing just 23 seconds in the entire contest as they completed their first season sweep of the Longhorns in 30 years.
“We just responded well to a great win against K-State,” TCU head coach Jamie Dixon said. “We took care of things and it was a great team effort. I really liked how we spaced floor and shot for three.”
TCU forward Vladimir Brodziansky stayed hot on the court, tallying a team high 18 points in the win. Guard Alex Robinson was right behind him with 17 points and eight assists on the day, with the two combining for nearly half of all TCU’s points.
Robison and Brodziansky’s performances however were just a sliver of TCU’s impressive win against their in-state rival. It’s time to break down what worked so well in the Frogs’ 15 point victory over the Longhorns.
After a staggering inability to close-out games late in a recent four-game skid, the Horned Frogs finally got over the hump with their overtime win against the Wildcats on Wednesday and it carried right over to Saturday’s outing against Texas.
The Frogs had fans on the edge of their seats when they went on a 3 and a half minute scoring drought after taking a nine-point lead midway in the second half, but TCU would answer the bell with 14 points in just over four minutes to put the game out of reach in the closing minutes of the contest.
A massive block by Karviar Shepherd late would draw a foul, but the incredible demonstration of athleticism from the senior got the crowd going and gave the Frogs all the energy they needed to saw off the Horns.
“After that block it was huge and the crowd was loud,” Robinson said. “It really contributes to our home court advantage.”
Dixon praised Shepherd for his character on and off the court, as the senior moved to the bench this season after starting in previous years.
He’s sacrificed but he’s ready at every moment,” Dixon said. “He’s just a super kid. He’s really unselfish and is a great defender. He communicates and makes other guys better at defending.”
The Frogs’ previous two home games each featured TCU possessing a lead with less than seven minutes to play, but the Frogs would go into a shell in each contest, allowing an 8-0 run against Baylor two weeks ago and a 26-2 run against Auburn last weekend.
Taking and making shots
Dixon’s squad shot 53 percent from the field in the win, draining 30 of 58 attempts. Eight of those 30 makes came from downtown, as the Frogs took 21 attempts from beyond the paint. Freshman guard Jalen Fisher led the way in three-pointers for TCU, making three of five attempts.
Players said that the success from the field was the result of extra determination in the last week.
“It feels way better when you shoot good,” Brodziansky said. “Our guys are putting extra work into working on their shots. We shoot in morning practices and coaches are putting lots of effort into it.”
It wasn't just three pointers either that fell for TCU. While the Frogs only shot 62.5 percent from the line in the first half, they would be a perfect 3-3 in the second half. The Frogs shot less than 50 percent from the line against Auburn last Saturday in an 88-80 loss.
Dixon said a return to acceptable shooting percentages was desperately needed for the team’s confidence going forward.
“There’s going to be times when you don’t shoot well,” Dixon. “Not sure about those four games in a row like we did, but our numbers then were dreadful, incomprehensible…I ran out of ways to describe it. When you miss shots, it can’t affect other things.”
Keeping the ‘Horns in the paint
One of the biggest focuses for the Frogs on Saturday was taking away the three point shot from the Longhorns, and it worked. TCU held Texas to a mere two three-pointers in the win, only allowing 13 looks for a downtown shooting percentage of 15 percent.
“We wanted to guard the three,” Dixon said. “We took away their penetration which hurt us in the first half, and they got some baskets inside because those guys are really good obviously. But the main things was preventing the threes, and it was huge for us.”
Texas would not make a single shot from deep in the second half, going 0-8 from downtown. The Horns finished the day with an overall shooting percentage of 47 percent, with forward Jarrett Allen leading the way with a game-high 22 points.
Kurt Thomas joins the greats
The Horned Frogs retired a jersey for the sixth time in program history on Saturday, as TCU basketball-great Kurt Thomas had his No. 40 placed atop the arena for the legacy that he left as a Horned Frog in the early 1990s and his NBA career which lasted from 1995 to 2013.
Thomas was honored on the court during a special ceremony at halftime, with video messages from former TCU basketball coaches Billy Tubbs (1994-2002) and Moe Iba (1987-1994), both who coached Thomas during his time at TCU.
Thomas said in a halftime interview that he never imagined this day would come.
“This is so special. To see my number retired at this university means everything. It let me knows that the hard work from beginning to the end was worth it,” Thomas said.
Dixon said that Thomas specifically wanted to have his jersey retired during the home game against Texas, a game that featured a throw-back theme, from old-style graphics on the scoreboard to throwback uniforms for TCU. Dixon added that the ceremony originally caught him by surprise when it was announced.
“I came back in August and was looking for his jersey during the first few weeks on the job,” Dixon said. "I didn’t know they hadn’t retired him yet. A lot of special things happened here today.”
While the majority of the TCU roster was not yet born when Thomas left TCU in 1995, that didn’t stop players from offering their commentary on Thomas.
“I played as him on the NBA 2K video game all the time growing up,” Robinson said.
The road ahead
With the win, TCU now improves to 17-6 overall on the season. With the team ranked 43rd in RPI prior to this game, players have already expressed excitement about the possibility of making it to the NCAA tournament.
“We talk about it all the time,” Robinson said. “It’s been our goal since day one. Send the seniors out on a high note.”
The Frogs look to keep up the pace when they take on Texas Tech at home Tuesday night, whom the Frogs lost to in heartbreaking fashion in Lubbock just less than two weeks ago. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m.