Results were mixed on respective courts this weekend for TCU. I’ve always been a bad-news-first person, so we’ll start there. The Big 12 v. SEC Challenge commenced between the two conferences, and the final results are essentially a wash. The “It Just Means More” conference beat the conference where “Every Game Matters” 5-4, while the Texas v. Kentucky game — that could have leveled the record — was canceled. The best victory from a conference compatriot was Oklahoma’s 66-61 win over the 9th-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide. The most embarrassing loss, thankfully, was not from our Frogs but No. 11 West Virginia losing by five to unranked Florida.
Our Frogs fought an inspired overtime battle in Columbia versus a Big 12 expatriate, No. 12 Missouri, which culminated in a 102-98 loss. TCU exploded offensively for the first time in recent memory and led by as many as 12 points deep into the second half. The Tigers forged a late rally with opportunistic offensive rebounds and were able to cover their one-possession deficit with a late three pointer to even the totals with three seconds remaining to force extra basketball. The 89-all overtime began without Frog center Kevin Samuel (#21), who fouled out late in the second frame and whose minutes were eclipsed this game by junior power forward Jaedon LeDee (#23), who produced 11 points and five rebounds and, along with sophomore guard PJ Fuller (#4), brough much needed bench spark that had been missing from Coach Jamie Dixon’s squad. Freshman guard Mike Miles (#1) logged a career-best 28 points and led the team in points, assists, steals and trailed only LeDee for most rebounds.
All that said, the overtime period was objectively terrible for the Frogs. Mizzou won the tip and immediately assaulted the paint to gather their first lead since before the second half. Purple guard RJ Nembhard (#22) held point and attacked to draw a foul and even the score at 91. More than two game minutes passed before the Frogs added to their score again, two made free throws from Chuck O’Bannon Jr. (#5), the former USC Trojan who is adding a welcome dimension to TCU’s big men and logged the second-most purple points with 17 on Saturday. Nembhard buried one jumper, and LeDee powered his way through a foul and added the and-one at the stripe. That said, Dixon’s disciples fell in overtime because of thoughtless ball handling at the point by Nembhard, who never seemed to be running a play but always trying to run through a field of Tigers hoping for a foul. TCU also committed two lane violations during Mizzou free shots that were missed but later swished on the retry. Nembhard — who is usually a proficient foul shooter — blew the chance at a one-and-one when he couldn’t capitalize on the first shot. Missteps abounded in a game that was otherwise overwhelmingly solid as forward play and bench support improved and Miles — who is undoubtedly the next purple and white sensation — exploded.
The good news was livestreamed on Facebook during one of the famous “Roditi Reports,” the now third-ranked Frog men’s tennis team downing a conference rival, the 6th-ranked Baylor Bears, in Waco on Sunday. Bashing the Bears is fun no matter what sport or context we’re considering, but as we discussed last week, Baylor chewed up 4th-ranked Michigan the previous weekend, and TCU’s win represents the most significant road conquest for Roditi and company in two years. To compound the elation, the Bears had just finished dispatching conference foe and defending national champion, the 4th-ranked Texas Longhorns in Austin, on Saturday by a 4-1 margin.
David Roditi’s squad started with a fast loss at third-line doubles with Juan Martin and Tadeas Paroulek skimming one game off their opponents. First-line doubles evened the affair by finishing shortly after. Luc Fomba and Alastair Gray won a dominating 6-2 victory over the Bears’ 10th-ranked pair. The deciding match finished last with a tight but definitive 6-4 loss for TCU. In college tennis, all three doubles matches account for one team point. Despite an early deficit, Frog singles attacked, led by team captain — Gray — with a flawless first set before finishing his opponent first. Fomba, playing first-line singles in this match, needed an extra game to win his first set 7-5 before claiming victory in the second set, 6-3. Freshman Paroulek rallied from his fifth-line position after dropping his first set to win in the second and third against his 103rd-ranked Baylor opponent. Sander Jong was the last Frog to finish at his third-line position — splitting sets with the 43rd-ranked Bear — before winning an impressive 6-1 third set to clinch the match. Both fourth- and sixth-line singles matches were abandoned in the third sets, TCU leading at fourth but trailing at sixth.
The bigger picture is that TCU tennis seems poised to regain their perch atop the conference and perhaps reach the final four in the team tennis national championships. The Frogs’ victory over Baylor, and the Bears ascension past the Longhorns, are a good indication that good things will happen later this fall. The only caveat is that the Horns seems to be playing better doubles than Baylor, who are likewise beating the Frogs. TCU’s second- and third-line doubles need improvement if Roditi and company expect to compete for a national championship near the end of the semester, which for all intents and purposes should be a realistic goal as it stands right now.