With Super Bowl 56 just five days away, Damion Baugh and Emanuel Miller did their best Joe Burrow and Jamarr Chase impressions to ice the game for TCU.
Just thirteen seconds were on the clock, and Baugh flung a pass full court on an inbounds play to Miller, who caught it in stride and slammed it home to push the Frogs’ lead to four with 11 seconds left.
“It’s that we run every day in practice,” Baugh said. “The refs were taking too long, so I kind of made a little side gesture at Eman [Miller]. Once I did it, Eman knew to go long. Touchdown.”
That was far from the pair’s only contribution on the night, though, as they combined for 31 points, six rebounds and five assists in 71 minutes played to lead TCU to a 77-73 win over Oklahoma State on Tuesday night.
Baugh’s and Miller’s late-game connection was a microcosm of what has made this TCU team different this year: chemistry.
Five different players attended the postgame press conference. It was unclear who was invited and who just came along for the ride.
It was clear that one player had not been invited — point guard Mike Miles. After missing his second-straight game with wrist injury, the Frogs’ leading scorer had come to the presser to give a nod to his team.
“I wasn’t supposed to come here, but I just wanted to say that I’m really proud of them,” Miles said. “They bounced back from last game. They were hearing everything about how they couldn’t win without me. I’m just proud of how they played tonight without me. I was on the bench cheering them on and I’m proud of how all of them played.”
Head coach Jamie Dixon echoed the sentiment that the team has a tight bond, pointing out the Frogs that were healthy attended a TCU Special Olympics event together the night before.
“They’re working hard, they’re great kids, I love the group,” Dixon said. “These were guys who were out at Special Olympics event last night that was voluntary. They were all there — the ones that weren’t hurt.”
The Frogs needed that chemistry tonight to ward off a ferocious 11-0 run by the Pokes over a near-four minute span late in the second half led by guard Isaac Likekele.
The senior scored seven of his 19 total points during that span to cut TCU’s lead to 70-69 with just over two minutes remaining.
Baugh, who has been clutch for the Frogs all season, then hit a floater from the free-throw line to prevent Oklahoma State from taking the lead.
“Mike Miles, he told me to step up and make the big shot, so I answered the call,” Baugh said.
Oklahoma State then pulled back within two, when forward Eddie Lampkin was sent to the line for free throws with 19 seconds left. Just a 52% career free-throw shooter, the first-year knocked them both down.
“I wasn’t even worrying about it. I wasn’t even worrying. I just had to step up,” Lampkin said. “I’m built for this. I shoot the free throws at the end every time at practice.”
Baugh and Miller then took care of the rest, improving TCU to 5-4 in conference play. With the win, the Frogs continue their streak of not losing back-to-back games this season.
Lampkin finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds, helping TCU to a resounding 37-24 win of the rebounding battle. Fourteen of those rebounds had been offensive, leading to 14 second-chance points for the Frogs.
Looking to bounce back from their disappointing loss on Saturday, the Frogs got off to a hot start in the first half. Behind 5 quick points from Miller, TCU took an early 14-4 lead.
The Pokes immediately made it clear that they had not come to Fort Worth to get run over, though, responding with a 13-2 run to take a one-point advantage.
Back-to-back threes by guard Avery Anderson had led Oklahoma State on that run, and the junior would have more to say by the end of the half, scoring a game-high 11 points by halftime.
Though Anderson had stayed hot, the Pokes had not as a team, and TCU finished the first half on a resounding 21-9 run to take a seven-point lead (39-32) at the break.
Ten offensive rebounds for the Frogs in the first half alone had been the difference, as they had turned those into 12 second-chance points.
Through the first 6:30 of the second half, the teams went back and forth, with strong individual performances on both sides leading the way.
Likekele scored eight of the Pokes’ first 11 points in the second half, while forward Chuck O’Bannon dropped 6 of the Frogs’ first 11 during that span to keep TCU’s lead of 7.
“I hate to use it because he’s such a good player, but he [Likekele] backed us down,” Dixon said. “He got in the paint, and I think we were afraid to be physical with him on those drives.”
Two minutes later, O’Bannon struck again, drilling his third three-pointer of the game to extended the Frogs’ advantage to 57-47 with 11:25 to go.
The teams would trade blows for the next six minutes, with TCU going up by as much as 12 before the Likekele-led run by Oklahoma State brought the game down to the wire.
O’Bannon finished with 19 points, which tied for his career-high. He’s 3-for-6 from behind the arc was quite a bounce-back after going 2-for-13 from deep in his previous two games for 13 combined points.
“Couldn’t get nothing to fall,” O’Bannon said when asked about Saturday. “But, I responded today.”
The victory for TCU means it split the season series with Oklahoma State. Now halfway through their Big 12 season, the Frogs will head to Lubbock on Saturday to play the No. 9 Texas Tech Red Raiders. Tipoff is scheduled for 3 p.m.