Men’s basketball comeback falls just short, Frogs lose in closing seconds to Trojans

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In the inaugural game at Fort Worth’s Dickies Arena, TCU basketball fell to USC  80-78 in a game that went down to the final second.

“We showed heart. We showed determination,” head coach Jamie Dixon said. “Simply put, it just didn’t go our way.”

After the Frogs tied the score at 78 on a layup by center Kevin Samuel with 10 seconds left, USC’s Nick Rakocevic scored on a tip-in with 0.2 seconds left to give TCU just their second loss of the season.

Samuel led TCU with 17 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks.  The contest was his fifth double-double of the season.

TCU struggled on both ends in the first half.  After the Frogs took an 11-6 lead just five minutes in, the Trojans went on a 13-4 run to take control of the game.

TCU turned the ball over 12 times against USC, as the Trojans scored 19 points off of those turnovers. Photo by Cristian ArguetaSoto

Offensively, with the exception of Samuel, TCU struggled to shoot the ball well. The redshirt sophomore went 6-for-7 in the first 20 minutes for 12 points to go with eight rebounds.

The rest of the team shot 37%.

The Frogs also committed nine turnovers in the first half alone, while the Trojans scored 19 points off of them.

TCU looked lost defensively, allowing USC to shoot 58% as a team and trailing by as many as 17 at one point.  The Trojans were led by guard Jonah Mathews, who poured in 12 points in the first half alone.

“Our first half wasn’t good,” Dixon said. “Defensively, I couldn’t believe how bad we were.”

USC held a 47-34 lead going into the halftime break.

TCU’s woes looked to be continuing in the second half, as USC started on a 5-0 run to extend their lead to 18.

Nevertheless, the Frogs didn’t go down without a fight, pulling to within 10 with 13:01 remaining on a difficult layup plus a foul by guard RJ Nembhard.

Guard RJ Nembhard got the crowd going with several difficult layups against USC. Photo by Cristian ArguetaSoto

“I really felt like we just started playing harder,” Desmond Bane said about the second half improvements.  “I’m proud of the way we fought back.”

TCU didn’t stop there.  Four minutes later, a 5-0 by point guard Edric Dennis Jr. cut USC’s lead to 61-58, sending Dickies Arena into a stir.

The Frogs’ second half improvement was largely due to their improved ball control, as they committed just three turnovers during that time.

The Trojans stayed sharp under pressure, though.  Anytime TCU got within reaching distance, USC responded with a run of their own to open the lead back up.

A late surge by the Horned Frogs gave the game some interest in the final minute, as a Dennis dunk make it a four-point game with 47 seconds remaining.  The senior then hit a pair of free throws to pull TCU within two.

A late layup by center Kevin Samuel tied the game at 78 with ten seconds remaining. Photo by Cristian ArguetaSoto

Poor free throw shooting by USC continued to give TCU hope, and an and-1 layup by Samuel tied the game at 78 with 10 seconds to go.

Samuel missed the free throw for the lead, though, and Rakocevic put the nails in the coffin right before the buzzer on the other end.

“You can’t point the finger at Kevin [Samuel],” Bane said.  “He saved us defensively all night.”

While the Frogs struggled to stop the shooting of the Trojans in the first half, it was USC’s close range attack that put the game away, as 12 of their last 13 points came off of layups or dunks.

Mathews finished with a game-high 20 points to lead the Trojans to victory.

Bane (13), Dennis (12) and Nembhard (11) joined Samuel in double figures for TCU.

Up next, the Frogs return to Schollmaier Arena to face Winthrop.  Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 11.