The Horned Dribblers stayed busy this week, and I have three conference contests to recap. Excitement is on the menu with coach Jamie Dixon and company serving heaping helpings of hooped hope for happy homers.
The game against Oklahoma State was a must win. The absence of road wins makes backyard brawls more precious for the Frogs. OK State is barely better than last place in the conference standings. Still, despite early foul trouble plaguing the Orange Okies, they stepped into Schollmaier Arena to snap the Frogs’ perfect-conference-at-home record. Frog guard Desmond Bane started scoring early, a good sign considering the junior has had problems getting off to good starts this season. Point guard Alex Robinson continues rewriting purple record books by becoming the all-time assist leader, succeeding TCU assistant coach Corey Santee. Hot outside shooting pushed the Frogs ahead during the first half to secure an 11-point lead heading into the locker room. The purple people became lost on their way back. The Frogs went cold from the field, and the Cowboys chipped away at their lead.
A major problem was the consistent lack of purple jerseys around the rim offensively or defensively. When outside shooting went asunder, so did the lead. The Cowboys galloped past the home team with six minutes remaining, and things grew scary. Back-and-forth scoring left the game tied with five seconds on the clock. Senior Frog forward JD Miller took the inbound and drove coast to coast to swish a buzzer-beating floater. His teammates frog-piled him with the horn blaring. The Frogs won 70-68. It’s plausible that Miller’s fantastic field goal will be the difference if TCU is sitting on the bubble in March.
The knock on the Funkytown Five is that they can’t win a conference road game. Iowa State is hot this season –– ranked 17th in the land when horned hoops came a-knockin’ on Saturday. Dixon brought the energy for his team –– perhaps too much. He drew a technical foul after making a polite suggestion regarding the officiating quality. The masterful if potty-mouthed coach responded by calling the perfect early timeout to turn the tide in favor of his Frogs. The change in momentum propelled the purple punchers from trailing by nine early to leading by six at halftime. Bane went scoreless, but his froggy friends found rhythm, while he prepared to join the party after halftime. No second-half letdowns plagued the good guys in Iowa. The lead extended to as many as 19 points. The Cyclones never led after the momentum shift of Dixon’s deft timeout early in the game. Consistent shooting and defensive rebounding propelled TCU as the whirly-birds had few second-chance shots. Bane –– scoreless in the first half –– finished with 17 points, as did Robinson and Kouat “Who’s your Boi?” Noi. Besting the ranked Cyclones on their turf was no small task and elevated the Frogs to 5-5 in conference. Dixon’s offensive philosophy evolved in Iowa with freshman Kendric Davis sharing point guard duty with Robinson. Davis’ explosive speed exposed the rangy Cyclones, who could not keep track of the speedy sub-6-footer. The combination of Davis, Robinson, Noi, Miller, and center Kevin Samuel is the Frogs’ most potent and versatile lineup forging forward.
TCU has never beaten ranked teams back to back. Also, they haven’t lost to a Big 12 opponent at home this season. Inevitably, both could not remain true after Kansas left Fort Worth. Dixon and company air-balled their opportunity in Lawrence earlier this season and looked to redeem. KU is ranked 14th and working to keep pace with their Sunflower State rival. The Kansas State Wildcats are firmly in control of the conference.
Run-and-shoot basketball showed out at Schollmaier Arena as the most impressive home crowd of the season dressed in white and “greeted” the Jayhawks. The good guys fed off their fans’ energy and started hot, scoring in transition and finding open spots in the key to bury jump shots. Bane, who earned Big 12 player of the week honors, didn’t wait until after halftime to electrify the offense. Kansas didn’t struggle to score and kept pace from long range. Neither team gave an inch and went to the break knotted at 37 each. Dixon’s disciples dragged after halftime and fell behind by nine. They appeared overmatched against the Jayhawks’ size, but there is no quit in these Fort Dribblers, who bobbed and weaved themselves back into the fight with less than three minutes remaining. The second half ended identically to the first. Tied. Davis attempted a circus layup to end regulation but couldn’t replicate Miller’s luck against OK State. Big Monday stayed up late to watch bonus basketball, but the Frogs couldn’t capitalize. TCU fell behind by five early in overtime. Miller and Davis missed important free throws that could have changed the game. The valiant effort netted no victory, and the hoppers lost 77-82 in overtime.
This week features two realistic victories for TCU. The team hosts OU on Saturday and then travels to Stillwater for a rematch with the Cowboys, who are still reeling from the wound of Miller’s buzzer-beating shot.