In a game where TCU was without standout freshman Mike Miles, the Frogs needed all hands on deck to avoid embarrassment against two-win Iowa State on Tuesday night.
They would get just that in their 79-76 win.
“Great win for us. We had some challenges without Mike and Francisco [Farabello] at the point,” Dixon said. “Not many teams would’ve been able to survive that, but we did.”
Miles was ruled out shortly before the game with a non COVID-19 related sickness.
After trailing for the majority of the game, TCU finally got the spark they needed to take control with just under three minutes remaining. Seconds after guard Taryn Todd hit a floater to put the Frogs up by two, guard R.J. Nembhard hit an athletic layup plus a foul to seemingly put the nails in the coffin for Iowa State.
The Cyclones did not make a field goal in the final 9:20 of the game, going 0-for-12 during that stretch.
Though he shot just 25% on the night, Nembhard’s poise over a full 40 minutes of running the point led TCU to their second straight-win on his team-high 20 points, seven assists and six rebounds.
“I had a ugly game today, but my teammates had my back,” Nembhard said. “I want to do the same for them and keep energy going on both ends.”
TCU out-rebounded Iowa State 51-34 in the game, leading to 20 second-chance points to the Frogs.
Despite entering the contest a miserable 0-8 in Big 12 Conference play, Iowa State looked hungry for the upset throughout the first half, displaying that a strength of schedule that ranks sixth in the nation really can make a record deceiving.
After a strong TCU start, the Cyclones hit the Frogs in the mouth, ripping off a 10-0 run to take a 12-9 lead just minutes into the game.
Very clearly missing the scoring prowess of Miles, it would get a lot worse for TCU before it got any better. Iowa State hit four of their first seven three-point attempts, preying on a stagnant Frog offense to open up a 33-24 lead with 4:34 remaining in the first half.
“I don’t think he’s ever missed a game anywhere,” Dixon said of Miles. “We talked to his mom [about it].”
Needing a spark, Dixon tried something new, inserting freshman Terren Frank into the game. Previously, the former Sierra Canyon standout had only played in garbage time at the end of games.
Right away, Frank looked ready for the challenge, splashing two threes at the end of the half to tie the score at 38 going into the break. The second triple caused such a rouse from the TCU bench that they were given a “bench warning.”
“It’s been really hard to be on the sideline every game and not be able to help my team win,” Frank said. “I loved to play basketball, and I’m focused on getting myself better and staying confident.”
Any momentum Frank had given the Frogs did not carry into the second half, though, as the Cyclones continued to put together run after run to prevent TCU from gaining control.
Midway through the second half, Iowa State seemingly couldn’t miss, getting near 50% as a team. Meanwhile, TCU went stone cold, missing eight-straight shots during a period.
The Frogs were able to stay in the game at the free throw line and an emphatic one-handed slam by Nembhard tied the game at 64 with just over five minutes remaining.
“That was kind of a spark not only for me but for my teammates,” Nembhard said of his dunk. “It was pretty nice.”
TCU would go on to take the lead on a floater by guard Taryn Todd with 2:45 remaining and never look back, earning their fourth conference win and keeping Iowa State winless in the Big 12.
Center Kevin Samuel made sure his presence was known in the game, scoring 10 points and grabbing 11 boards to earn his fourth double double of the season. Guards P.J. Fuller and Taryn Todd added 11 points each.
TCU now moves to 11-7 on the season and 4-5 in conference play, showing endurance down the stretch in two-straight close wins.
“This is probably the longest stretch of practices we’ve had with everyone,” Dixon said. “At least we have some guys in the right positions now.”
Things get harder for the Frogs this weekend, as they travel to take on No. 13 Texas. Tip-off in Austin is scheduled for 1 p.m. on the Longhorn Network.