I’m not confident whether I should applaud or chastise my online readers this week for wasting valuable kilowatt hours reading my ramblings. But, if you’re anything like me, you welcome the distraction as you time your rolling blackouts so you can boil potentially hazardous water. It was an eventful weekend for obscure sports in Frogland. Basketball, while not inherently obscure, is doing their best to cement their status as they fell to the Longhorns after a promising first quarter. Junior guard RJ Nembhard (#22) continued his streak of dominant purple scoring for the third consecutive game. The bad news is that the majority of his 15 points came in the first several minutes and then tapered off along with his team’s chances of hanging with the Horns. Freshman guard Mike Miles (#1) lagged but managed 10 points after returning from illness. There’s no cause to dissect a game that Jamie Dixon’s boys dropped 55-70, but the most demoralizing stats belonged to the forwards. Center Kevin Samuel (#21) accounted for three peasley points during 22 game minutes. Jaedon LeDee (#23), who had sparked life from the bench previously, finished with four points. Terren Frank (#15), who scored his first Horned-Frog points against Iowa State, led in big-men scoring with eight points off the bench. Frank isn’t even an inside player and fills a spot-up outside shooter role in the style of former Frog Kouat Noi.
TCU couldn’t and didn’t compete in the paint with Texas. When Nembhard’s shooting faded midway through the first half, Dixon’s disciples imploded. This team has displayed time and again that feeding Samuel under the rim delivers consistently positive results, but they couldn’t accomplish that against the vaunted Texas defense.
The mid-week meeting with the Red Raiders was postponed for reasons that should be obvious to any resident of Texas, and the next scheduled game is a Saturday date with a beatable Kansas State squad. As it stands now, the Frogs might not play the Raiders this season at all unless the teams somehow meet up in the Big 12 tournament.
I’d be remiss to neglect mentioning Chengatayi (Du) Mapaya from TCU’s indoor track team, who competed in the Texas Tech Shootout last Saturday. Mapaya — who is the defending outdoor national champion in the triple jump from 2019 — set the facility and meet record in Lubbock with his first jump and improved that mark on his second with a distance just short of 17 meters that ranks seventh in the world. Mapaya and Women’s Rifle are the only two current-generation national champions on campus.
Men’s Tennis — who has designs on joining the Mapaya and rifle club — stumbled during the ITA Indoor Tennis Championships on the campus of the University of Illinois. The opening round loss to 7th-ranked Virginia came in peculiar fashion, with TCU winning the doubles point but then dropping four of six singles matches in a 3-4 loss. It should stand to reason the 3rd-ranked Frogs could sail through the consolation bracket against 10th-ranked Tennessee, but TCU responded by losing the doubles point on the heels of a tough first-line loss by Alastair Gray and Luc Fomba, whose opponents required an extra game to clinch the victory and doubles point for the Volunteers.
Fomba continued his winning ways by prevailing in his second singles match of the weekend, and Gray reversed Friday’s fortunes by winning his third set. The Volunteers proved too strong down the roster as coach David Roditi’s Frogs fell at lines four, five and six, suffering their second consecutive 3-4 loss. It had been two days shy of a calendar year since Roditi’s racketeers had lost a dual match, and it was during the opening round of this championship tournament last year against then 1st-ranked USC. Last year’s team reversed course to win their second and third matches and snag the consolation bracket championship over Texas A&M.
This year, however, losses offered a unique opportunity to avenge their previous defeat against the still 1st-ranked Trojans, who had uncharacteristically suffered a similar fate in Illinois last weekend. The match began with a doubles victory from the newly formed third-line pair of Sander Jong — who also plays third-line singles for TCU — and Max Kurzban, who hadn’t appeared on the ladder before Sunday. The duo proved quite the bakers as they bageled their opponents 6-0.
The second-line team of Bertus Kruger and Jake Fearnley couldn’t keep pace with the Californians and fell 3-6 in their doubles match. This left Fomba and Gray volleying at first line with the top-ranked pair in the nation. Unfortunately, the premier squad couldn’t overcome and lost 5-7 to award the doubles point to Southern California.
Singles started slowly for our hometown heroes as well, with Tomas Jirousek claiming the fourth-line in straight sets to even the overall score at 1 before Tadeas Paroulek fell in straight sets at the fifth position and Jong lost during the third set to put the Trojans in position to end the match via their next victory. Roditi’s remaining players proved unwilling to allow a third loss. Fomba was the first to make up the doubles loss by beating 19th-ranked Riley Smith in straight sets, which were settled by consecutive tiebreaks. (Fomba has won 75% of all tiebreaks in his college career.) Juan Martin scored the next overall point at the sixth spot by going the distance and winning 6-3 in his third set. Gray faced the greatest challenge while sparring with Daniel Cukierman, the No. 1 ranked singles player in the land. Gray won his first set via tiebreak before falling in the second and the match riding on the third. The team captain showed poise by defeating the top-ranked player on the top-ranked team with a 7-5 third-set to clinch the first victory for TCU over USC since Roditi started coaching the team in 2010.
For those less familiar with college tennis, USC is the gold standard for program dominance. Think: Alabama in football or Duke in basketball. In 1946 — the first year the title was established — USC won their first team championship and 20 others since, more than any other program. Despite the losses last weekend, the momentum and confidence from toppling the Trojans cannot be overstated and should carry these Frogs to a Big 12 championship in the spring and perhaps even an elusive national championship match appearance.