“It’s tough because we just didn’t want to be continually getting in the tournament, we wanted to make a run, win some games, but we came up short and it’s tough,” TCU guard Kenrich Williams said. “It’s going to be tough for a while for me and the rest of the seniors.”
Against the Orange’s signature 2-3 zone defense, three-point shooting is usually required to beat it, and after starting the night hitting on three of its first five shots from deep, TCU missed 14 three-pointers of its 17 attempts.
With the exception of forward Kouat Noi, who was 2 of 3 from behind the arc, TCU’s shooters struggled. The Horned Frogs’17.6 percent from the arc is the lowest of the season, and they shot 25 percent or lower in three of their last four games this season.
“Good defensive teams, I think that’s part of it, and if you look at the teams we’ve played, I think slower-tempo teams,” TCU head coach Jamie Dixon said. “You’re not going to shoot, we’re probably not going to shoot 50 percent against them.”
“I thought our defense was real good tonight the whole game,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said. “They’re one of the best 3-point shooting teams and our guys didn’t give them any good shots the whole game.”
The Orange then scored six of the next eight points, which gave them a five-point cushion, 54-49, when Robinson went to the free throw line with 30 seconds left to play. The junior hit one of two as TCU trailed by four, 54-50.
Free throw shooting also played a key role in the Horned Frogs’ first round exit with TCU missing six of its 17 shots from the charity stripe in a game the team lost by five.
Even though TCU had been struggling of late shooting, rebounding was a strong suit of Dixon’s team all season long, but the Horned Frogs were unable to win the battle on the glass, being out-rebounded by three in addition to turning the ball over six more times than the Orange.
“You’ve got to get second shots, you’ve got to get put-backs, and I think that’s one of the things that hurt us and keep your turnovers low,” TCU head coach Jamie Dixon said. “The field goal percentage, obviously 34 in the second half, that’s going to get you in trouble, but there was the other things, too. You’ve got to do the other things, and we didn’t do those things.”
Although TCU shot 40 percent from the field, three points higher than Syracuse, the Orange were nearly automatic at the free throw line, hitting on 12 of their 15 opportunities.
Ultimately, Syracuse played the way they liked to play: a slow-paced, defensive slugfest.
The Horned Frogs were held to 31 points fewer than their season average of 83 points per game, which ranked second in the Big 12 and 19th in the NCAA.
“You’re probably not going to shoot as high a percentage against good teams, but you’ve got to do the other things, and we didn’t do those things,” Dixon said.
TCU’s second season under Dixon lead to a number of key benchmarks, sweeps of Baylor, Oklahoma State, and Iowa State, but none were bigger than the Horned Frogs return to the Big Dance for the first time since 1998.