It’s the year of the pig, according to the Chinese zodiac. Frog fans might disagree and dub 2019 as the year of the injury. Football first and now basketball have amassed injuries to key contributors that have derailed dreams for purple prominence.
Hopes remained high after the Frogs’ near miss while hosting Kansas roundballers in overtime last Monday. TCU missed against OU while visiting Norman earlier this season, falling short by two points. Still, Oklahoma sat directly behind the Funkytown Ballers in the Big 12 standings despite its head-to-head victory. The most significant change of plans was adjusting for the injury to Frog forward Kouat Noi, who has anchored the offense by punishing defenses on the perimeter and in the paint. The junior is out with an ankle injury and booted on the bench until further notice. The Crimson Okies and Purple Toadies went back and forth throughout the first half, exchanging leads as relentlessly as two blues guitarists on open-mic night. Senior forward JD Miller continued to step up and propel his purple posse with energy and offensive production. Scoring stagnated without Noi in the rotation, and outside shooting yielded little success as the clock ticked toward halftime. Coach Jamie Dixon’s squad stayed within striking distance of the Sooners, trailing 32-30 when the squads headed to the locker room.
Second-half scoring didn’t improve for the good guys, who would go on to shoot a slovenly 36 percent from the field compared to the Crimson’s 50 percent. Miller, who finished with a double-double, had 14 points to match freshman guard Kendric Davis’ output to lead their teammates in a field-goal famine. Dixon’s dribblers failed from the field all day as points eluded them. Sooner forwards consistently succeeded versus the Frogs’ man defense. Okie forward Kristian Doolittle did loads to punish in the paint and led all scorers with 21 points to complement 10 rebounds. Sooner forward Brady Manek, who also looks like an extra from the movie Semi-Pro, scored 14 points. Opposing big men continue to be the Rubik’s Cube that Dixon’s defense can’t solve. Final: 71-62 as Oklahoma snapped a five-game streak of conference losses and handed TCU their second-consecutive home loss.
Rematch at the OK Corral
Less than two weeks have passed since Miller’s heroic floater to down OK State at Schollmaier Arena. The Cowboys hadn’t forgotten and were ready for blood this time around. Meanwhile, Mondays continue to fluster the Frogs, who play like fortysomething middle management types before their morning coffee. The pervasive struggle to create points followed the Frogs to Stillwater, while the Cowboys loaded their long-range rifles and sniped a passel of 3-pointers. The first six scores for OK State were long range, and the visiting Horned Frogs found themselves playing catch-up against the best 3-point shooting team in the conference. The players wearing PMS 166 (OSU’s specific putrid orange color) went on a 16-0 run in the first half, and home-fried officiating delivered them to the free-throw line. Dixon and company trailed 39-30 at half. TCU center Kevin Samuel flashed defensive prowess by denying cowboy paint points with repeated blocks, while his teammates flashed their feistiness and clawed back to within two points with five minutes left in the game. Unfortunately, there were no buzzer-beating heroics this time. The Horned Hoopers were too sloppy and failed to find consistency with their shooting. Every time the Frogs caught up, the Cowboys galloped away as Texas Christian spiraled to their third straight loss, 68-61. TCU has won only twice during the 14 trips they’ve taken north of Norman.
Bubble Alert: DEFCON 1
I can’t sugarcoat this. Horned hoops are in big trouble. The Sooners and Cowboys were both trailing TCU in the conference standings. The home team’s resume is getting worse and their roster thinner. Several scholarship players have departed (most transferring after injury struggles). Noi is sidelined with an ankle injury. His cousin – forward Lat Mayen – is out for the season. The remaining scholarship basketball players could fit in a Chevy Suburban, albeit head and legroom would be tight. Miller and Samuel are the only two big men playing significant minutes. The lineup is small. Outside shooting must be on point if there’s any chance for Dixon’s disciples to dance again.
Five games remain. The funky bunch downed West Virginia and Texas early in the season, but we’ll have to visit them both next time. Iowa State, Texas Tech, and Kansas State will have to attack the Fort but are all currently Top 25-ranked. TCU needs to win three of their remaining tips to be in contention for one of the tournament spots as March Madness looms.