It was a wild back-and-forth affair on the hardwood in Fort Worth Wednesday night between TCU and Oklahoma State, but the Horned Frogs were unable to deliver the final blow en route to a 71-68 loss to the Cowboys.
The Frogs held a late one-point lead after overcoming a nine-point second half deficit, but surrendered it on two free-throws after Jalen Fisher committed a foul on Brandon Averette with just more than a minute to play. Jawun Evans would extend the OSU lead to three in the final 20 seconds when he hit a wide-open jump shot, ultimately too much to overcome for TCU.
Kenrich Williams and Alex Robinson each got three-point attempts off in the closing seconds, but neither one found the basket. The Frogs fell to 17-9 overall and 6-7 in conference with the loss while the Cowboys improved to the exact same line with their season sweep of TCU, now having won 6 of their past 7 Big 12 games after starting conference play 0-6.
“Obviously you’ve got to win your home games as I continue to say,” TCU head coach Jamie Dixon said. “We obviously caught them on their run, but when you’re up and you don’t knock down open shots - that’s where it got away from us.”
For the second straight game, three players attributed for more than half of the point total for the Frogs’ opponent, as Evans and forwards Leyton Hammonds and Jeffrey Carroll were responsible for 54 of OSU’s 71 points. Hammonds had 16 alone in the first half, including four three-pointers for the Cowboy squad that entered the game ranked ninth nationally in scoring.
Forward JD Miller scored a team high 16-points for the Frogs with Vladimir Brodziansky and Kenrich Williams behind him at 12 each. TCU finished the night shooting 46.2 percent from the field, but it was too little to overcome an outing in which the Frogs let the Cowboys shoot 50.9 percent with 38 points in the paint.
“You can’t let a team shoot over 50 percent and give them so many driving layups,” Dixon said. You’re not going to win. We can look at numbers offensively, but at the end of the day, that with nine turnovers….we’ve got to do better and protect leads down the stretch with a stop.”
The game itself was tight from start to end, never featuring a double-digit lead. The Cowboys opened up with a 9-4 lead over the Frogs early, but an ensuing OSU scoring drought of more than five minutes handed the momentum right over to TCU. The Frogs embarked an 8-0 run to go up 12-9, the first of eight lead changes on the night.
And that was just the first of what led to series of exchanged scoring runs. The Cowboys immediately responded with a 6-0 run to regain the lead at 15-12, followed up by each team trading 9-0 runs to make it a 24-21 lead for OSU.
“It’s part of the game,” Dixon said of the alternating hot-cold stretches. “You aren’t going to score every play. They had it too. When we didn’t score, they did.”
Dixon said however that the cause for the pattern may have been a matter of player maturity.
“Even the good ones go through stretches, but you have to recognize a bad possession and have confidence in what you’re doing rather than being the guy who has to make the big play,” Dixon said.
The Cowboys would carry the lead into the halftime, 34-29, but the Frogs came out of the half dialed in, draining their first six attempts from the field to regain the lead at 43-42. Just like the first half however, the lead quickly vanished when the Cowboys broke out for a 12-2 run and a 9-point lead. It was the largest lead that either team possessed all night.
But it a game where no lead was safe, the Cowboys’ edge evaporated when the Frogs embarked on a 10-0 run to go up 60-57 with 7:38 to play. At that rate, the Frogs were still shooting a remarkable 71 percent from the field in the half.
The 10-0 stretch however proved to be last run of such for the Frogs, and not the last for Oklahoma State. The Frogs maintained a three-point lead until less than 100 were left in the contest, but couldn’t stand their ground, beginning with a layup from OSU forward Mitchell Solomon. Still up one, Miller proceeded to turned the ball over to Averette, who was then fouled by Fisher and awarded two points at the line. He sunk both, giving the Cowboys the lead for good.
TCU had their chances in the final 62 seconds which they trailed, but a turnover by Brodzianksy on which many argued was a missed foul led to an easy jumper from Evans after a defensive miscue left him wide open. The missed desperation threes by Williams and Robinson as the final seconds ticked off the clock sealed the fate for the Frogs.
While the Frogs’ shooting statistics may have not pointed to any negatives from the naked eye, Dixon said he felt the team didn’t drive to the basket enough in the loss.
“At times our shot selection was good, but at times we took a lot of tougher shots and didn’t handle the end of the clock very well,” Dixon said. “We wanted to shoot jumpers at the end of the clock rather than drive. We had the whole floor, and we’ve got to do better at that. We’ve been preaching that and we’ll need to do better this week.”
TCU suffered three shot clock violations in the loss, all on jump shots.
As far as the Frogs’ aspirations for the NCAA tournament, Dixon said that while the loss wasn’t exactly “unaffordable,” losing at home does no favors for the team. As of several days ago, the Frogs were projected to be ranked as an 8 or 9 seed in the NCAA tournament.
“They [OSU] are a high RPI team, but you can’t lose home games, even against good teams like Kansas and Baylor,” Dixon said. “We’ve lost three at home to good teams, and in the end it catches up with you.”
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The Frogs won’t have to worry about losing at home next time they hit the court and look to regain their footing, but they’ll playing in one of the tougher environments in college basketball as they face Iowa State in Ames, Iowa on Saturday. Tip-off is set for 5 p.m.