The Horned Frogs hung tight with No. 12 West Virginia from start to end Saturday afternoon, but a dramatic final minute did not go in TCU’s favor, as the Mountaineers broke a 60-60 tie with a free throw to hand the Frogs’ their fifth-consecutive loss.
After Alex Robinson failed to put the Frogs ahead in the last minute when he sunk just one of two free-throws to tie the game at 60, freshman Jaylen Fisher was called for a controversial foul at the other end, sending West Virginia’s Daxter Myles Jr. to the line and putting the Mountaineers up by sinking one of two free-throws.
With less than 5 seconds to play, the Frogs had a chance to win it at the buzzer when Desmond Bane got a wide-open look from three-point range, but the shot missed the basket entirely, extending TCU’s Big-12 skid and putting NCAA Tournament hopes on the ropes.
https://twitter.com/dwstraka49/status/835604939548295169 West Virginia guard Javon Carter finished the game with a team-high 15 points for the Mountaineers while Nathan Adrian followed up right behind him at 13. TCU meanwhile had four players: Fisher, Robinson, Kenrich Williams and Vlad Brodziansky, finish with double digit figures in scoring.
“That’s a disappointing loss and we obviously didn’t get it done,” TCU head coach Jamie Dixon said. “I know the big question is the foul at the end, but I told our guys that it’s on us. We can’t make excuses and people make mistakes.”
The day began with a setback before TCU even took the court, as starter JD Miller was scratched from the lineup due to an aggravated groin injury. Miller, who had recorded double-digit points on 10 occasions this season, had practiced on Friday without issue.
“He woke up this morning and could hardly walk,” Dixon said. “It caught us all off guard.”
Robison said that he wasn’t aware Miller had been scratched until the team arrived at the arena.
“It was definitely a big absence without his presence on the court,” Robinson said.
With Miller out of the contest, the Frogs got off to a sluggish start from the field, only draining two of their first 11 looks for 18 percent. TCU never let the deficit reach double digits though, and would go on an 8-0 run at the end of the half to take a 30-27 lead heading into the locker-room, capped by a three-pointer by Bane at the halftime buzzer.
Fisher played a key-role in helping the Frogs jump in front of the No. 12 team in the land, draining a trio of three-pointers in the first half and ultimately finishing the day with a game-high 18 points. Fisher credited his teammates for his success from downtown.
“My teammates are the ones who help me get in great position to shoot and knock down my shots,” Fisher said.
The solid individual performance from the field however would not be the biggest storyline surrounding Fisher at the end of the day.
After the Frogs held on to their slim lead in the opening minutes of the first half, assisted by three blocks from Brodziansky, the game would soon become a back and forth affair all the way until West Virginia pulled ahead by five points with just under three points to go. TCU however would respond with five unanswered points of their own, squandering a chance at to take a last-minute lead when Alex Robinson was only able to make one of two free-throws to knot the game at 60 all.
That was when the game took a sour turn for the Frogs. On the ensuing sequence, Fisher was called for a foul as Myles Jr. drove to the basket for the Mountaineers, despite replays showing little if any contact. Officials awarded Myles Jr. two shots at the line amidst of shower of boos from TCU fans, draining one of two shots to put the Mountaineers up 61-60.
“It just went their way,” Fisher said of the foul. “You have to move on from it.” https://twitter.com/SportsDayDFW/status/835600868502290432
Dixon expressed similar remarks as his player regarding the call.
“It’ll be talked about a lot, but it is what is,” Dixon said. “You have to go by what they call. I thought we did a good job defending but we didn’t get the break down the stretch, which we need to start creating.”
After a timeout by TCU and just 4.5 seconds left on the clock, the Frogs went coast-to-coast, giving Bane a wide-open look from three-point range at the buzzer. Bane got the shot off, but the ball missed wide of the basket, putting the lid on yet another agonizing loss for the Frogs.
“We executed down the stretch and had the play we wanted. Alex made the right play and the right pass and we had a good shot by a good shooter,” Dixon said. “There were a lot of plays down the stretch you could talk about, but we just didn’t get it done.”
While the foul and the ensuing missed three-pointer may go down as the biggest talking points from the game, the Frogs had plenty of miscues that hurt their chances of pulling off the upset over the Mountaineers. TCU committed 21 turnovers in the loss opposed to West Virginia’s 11, giving the Mountaineers a 19-10 edge in points off turnovers.
“We’ve got to look at ourselves. 21 turnovers are why we were in that position,” Dixon said.
The Frogs also lost the battle in offensive rebounding, 17-9, though the Mountaineers only outscored TCU 12-9 in second chance points.
With another loss to a Big 12 opponent in a contest that was winnable in hindsight, the Frogs face a tall task in receiving an invite to the NCAA tournament with just two games, both against unranked opponents, left on the schedule before the Big 12 tournament. TCU entered the contest with an NCAA RPI of 53.
“We needed to win one of these games and we didn’t,” Dixon said. “I thought we should have, and there’s just been too many of those.”
As big of a blow Saturday’s defeat may have been to the Frogs’ aspiration of partaking in this year’s edition of March Madness, players and coaches tried to remain optimistic looking forward.
“For now the loss huts, but every other loss we had hurts equally,” Robison said. “Now the next game is our biggest game of the year.”
Dixon promised that the team would show a better effort in Wednesday’s upcoming contest at home against Kansas State.
“We’ve got to find a way to get back to winning home games and we will,” Dixon said. “We’ll play hard, we’ll execute better, and we’ll improve in the next three days because we have to. That’s our message going forward.”
TCU previously defeated Kansas State in an overtime thriller in Manhattan on Feb. 1. With both squads now 17-12 on the season heading into the mid-week showdown, the game could have significant postseason implications if Saturday’s events didn’t bring them already. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. at the Schollmaier Arena.
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