Horned Frogs look to tighten up defense in rematch with Oklahoma

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TCU’s rematch with the Oklahoma Sooners in Norman Saturday pits the Big 12’s most high-flying offenses, with OU leading the conference (93.1 ppg) and the Horned Frogs not far behind (87.6 PPG), and the conference’s most porous defenses with the Sooners allowing the most points per game (80.1) and TCU not far behind them (76.6).

“We’ve got to get better defensively and we have to rebound better,” TCU head coach Jamie Dixon said when talking about his team’s last game against Texas. “At the end of the day we dug ourselves another hole and we’re really trying to address the slow starts in those games.”

The slow starts include falling eleven points behind the Sooners (11-0), trailing by 14 against Kansas (22-8), as well as being hit with a 13-point deficit in Austin against the Longhorns (18-5).

However, the Horned Frogs have overcome all of those runs in each of its three losses as they’ve lost three of its first four conference games by a total of six points.

“We want to have 40 good minutes of basketball and we haven’t done that,” Dixon said. “We’re playing good teams, there’s going to be runs and we understand that.”

A significant reason for TCU’s early-game struggles on both sides of the ball is foul trouble. Against Texas, Jaylen Fisher picked up two fouls in the first 2:11 of the game, forcing him to miss the rest of the first half. The Horned Frog offense struggled without him, committing nine first-half turnovers after averaging just 9.8 turnovers over its last five games. In the second half against the Longhorns, TCU committed just two turnovers and Fisher finished with 13 points on 5-for-10 shooting as well as six assists and no turnovers in 27 minutes. The sophomore had the same issue crop up in TCU’s last game against Kansas, playing only 14 minutes against the Jayhawks, and he scored 16 points in those 14 minutes, providing a spark when on the court.

One way the Horned Frogs can eliminate this issue is simple and it’s one they’re honing in on.

“Just work on our defense and beating players to the spots,” TCU guard Alex Robinson said. “The NCAA changes rules every year, and one of the new rules this year is you have to have your hand up. You can’t hand-check or anything like that and they’re really making that a point of emphasis this year, so that’s something we need to improve on.”

TCU’s defensive effort will be crucial Saturday as it’s tasked with facing the NCAA’s leader in scoring (29.2 ppg) and assists (10.2 apg), Sooner point guard Trae Young. The Horned Frogs can draw on some success from its Dec. 30 outing against the freshman phenom in Fort Worth.

“We were up 13 points and felt pretty good about where things were at,” Dixon said. “But like I said afterward if you told me he would go 9-23 from the field, I’d take that, but it’s the free throws that hurt us and the biggest thing was transition where they got a lot of baskets and opportunities.” 

 

End of game execution 

Even though the shot didn’t fall, TCU got the look they desired on the last play against Texas.

“That was a great play,” Robinson said of Jaylen Fisher’s driving layup at the buzzer Wednesday against Texas. “It just didn’t go in. It worked exactly how it usually does in practice. Jaylen makes that shot 99 percent of the time, and it just didn’t fall.”

 

The play left TCU with a one-point loss in double-overtime.

“We know what we did well, we’re a team that’s had four games decided in the last seconds, and I say three-quarters of the conference games are going to be like that, so we have to put ourselves in position to win those,” Dixon said.” It’s execution again down the stretch, mainly the defensive aspect of coming up with a steal, a deflection, a rebound, or a better contest is what we’re looking at right now.”

Even though the Wednesday’s defeat dropped TCU’s conference record to 1-3, the Horned Frogs are looking at it with the glass half full.

“It’s tough but it can also be used as a motivational tool and we can keep saying how good we are and what we’ve done,” Dixon said. “Our league is built for good teams getting losses and that’s where it is across the board. We haven’t lost confidence or thrown in the towel, that’s not even a thought or consideration.”

 

TCU tips off Saturday at Lloyd Noble Center in Norman against Oklahoma at noon.