In desperate need of a win to earn a bid to the NCAA tournament, TCU men’s basketball shot just 39 percent as a team and got zero points from their bench, falling 81-66 to No. 11 Texas Tech.
“We’re obviously not happy with how we played,” head coach Jamie Dixon said. “We have to find a way to get better.”
With just a seven-man rotation, TCU was forced to play each member of their starting five at least 34 minutes, while their bench went 0-4 from the floor.
On the other hand, Texas Tech shot 57 percent in the game as a team and had five players in double figures.
TCU came out of the gate swinging, forcing a steal on Texas Tech’s first possession and taking an early 4-3 lead. The offensive dominance of the Red Raiders would soon come into effect though, as they went on a 25-7 run to go up 28-11 midway through the first half.
“They’re just a really good team that came out, and they were real physical with us,” guard Alex Robinson said. “We just dug ourselves too big of a hole.”
The Horned Frogs were getting good looks but finding it hard to convert them into points, shooting just 3-13 from the field. Meanwhile, the Red Raiders were shooting an outstanding 65 percent as a team, scoring at will.
“They’re much more physical than we are,” Dixon said.
With 5:14 left in the first half, a tip-in by forward JD Miller ended an 8:23 stretch for TCU without a made basket. This drought had put TCU down 33-11 before Miller’s score.
The Horned Frogs trailed 43-25 at the halftime break, their largest halftime deficit of the season. TCU had a lot of work to do, as they were just 8-28 from the floor and 3-10 from beyond the arc.
The Red Raiders had dominated the Horned Frogs in the paint to that point, scoring 22 of their first half points down low.
Unfazed by their deficit, TCU forced three early turnovers and went on a 10-0 run to start the second half. Forward Kouat Noi and Robinson each scored five points during the run.
“I was happy how we came out in the second half,” Dixon said.
Robinson would finish with 17 points, 15 of which came in the second half alone. The senior from Fort Worth also added six assists.
This momentum was short-lived though, as the Big 12’s best three-point shooting team started to expose TCU, one of the Big 12’s worst teams in terms of three-point defense. The Red Raiders exploded on an 11-4 run behind three made from behind-the-arc to push their lead back to 15.
“Really, it’s our defense that just continues to put us in a hole,” Dixon said.
The game was back-and-forth from there, with TCU drawing as close as 12 at times but as far as 20 at others. With the Horned Frogs unable to go on any substantial runs, a dunk that shook the entire arena by Red Raiders’ guard Jarrett Culver put Texas Tech up 17 with 4:36 left to play and all but put the nails in the coffin for TCU.
A projected top-ten pick in the 2019 NBA draft, Culver had been all over the court for the Red Raiders. The sophomore who leads Texas Tech in points, rebounds and assists per game poured in 15 points, seven assists, six rebounds and five steals.
Miller caught fire for TCU in the closing minutes, going 3-3 from deep in the last 2:14 seconds to finish with a game-high 18 points.
While TCU leads the Big 12 in assists per game, it was Texas Tech who shared the ball well in the contest, totaling 22 assists.
Noi added 15 points and four steals for the Horned Frogs in the loss. With three made three-pointers, the sophomore has now sunk one from deep in 26-straight games.
It doesn’t get any easier for TCU in their next action, as they face No. 16 Kansas State, tied with Texas Tech for first in the Big 12, in their final home game of the season. Tip-off at Schollmaier Arena is scheduled for Monday at 8 p.m.
“We know this game probably means more than any of the other Monday games that we’ve played,” Robinson said. “We are all gonna mentally prepare ourselves for Monday.”