Corey Santee couldn’t keep himself from smiling in the final minutes of Tuesday night’s game.
And he had every reason.
The junior guard had just scored 20 points, grabbed eight rebounds, dished out five assists and recorded four steals en route to leading the Frogs (10-12, 6-5 C-USA) to a 71-46 win over No. 10 Louisville.
“It was hard to keep it back,” Santee said. “Coach was telling me to just have fun and put a smile on my face and enjoy it. I was just trying to have fun.”
Louisville head coach Rick Pitino had little trouble keeping a smile off his face.
“I think there’s nothing better than a good humbling ass kicking to get you back mentally and physically,” Pitino said. “TCU deserves an awful lot of credit because they gave us the ass kicking.”
Santee wasn’t the only Frog responsible for handing Pitino a loss in his first visit to Daniel-Meyer Coliseum, however.
Sophomore forward Chudi Chinweze stole the show early in the first half, coming within 1 point and one rebound of a double-double. He finished the night with that double-double, scoring 13 points, grabbing 13 rebounds and recording three blocks.
Chinweze said he was unaware of his impressive statistics in the game’s first 20 minutes.
“I didn’t know about it at first,” Chinweze said. “I just kept playing hard and some balls just came to me.”
Senior guard Nucleus Smith, who had 17 points, six rebounds and three steals, saved his best performance of the year for a game that he called the biggest win of his career.
“This is at the top,” Smith said. “For me, I have been here for four years and we have come close to beating a lot of teams. But this is the best win so far for me and the team.”
Behind the performance of these three, the Frogs controlled the game from start to finish, much to the delight of the 6,028 fans in attendance.
The Frogs took a 33-18 lead into halftime, a lead they would never relinquish.
An early 13-7 Cardinals’ run in the second half cut the Louisville deficit to under double-digits at 40-31. Santee, however, responded with seven consecutive points, two from the free-throw line, two on a layup and three on a 3 pointer.
“We didn’t really ever look at the score really,” Santee said. “(Dougherty) told us just to keep our cool and calm down. We were going a little too fast at times. We knew they were going to make a run, that’s Louisville. It was all about holding our ground and standing up for it.”
And, boy, did they ever stand up.
With great defense, the Frogs forced the Cardinals into their worst shooting and scoring night of the year, as Louisville hit on only 29 percent of their shots and scored 46 points. Sophomore forward Francisco Garcia and guard Taquan Dean were held in check with 7 and 5 points, respectively. The duo came into the game averaging a combined 27 points a game.
The Cardinals’ poor night gives them their fourth loss in their last five games, a streak that begun after the team had won its previous 16 contests.
“We’ve had some great winning streaks, and now it’s time to battle adversity, fight hard and get as many wins as we possibly can,” Pitino said. “We just got to get back to executing.”
Santee said nothing was going to keep the Frogs from losing this big lead, especially following Saturday’s breakdown against Tulane, in which the Frogs blew a 16-point lead.
“We were on our home court and we don’t really want anyone coming in and beating us on our home court,” he said.
The Frogs realize the importance of a win over a team like Louisville.
“With this win we can’t sneak up on people anymore,” Smith said. “The Marquette game people thought was a fluke. Now, this game we have sent a message that we are one of the teams that’s going out there trying to win every game.”
Head coach Neil Dougherty continued to downplay the significance of another victory over a quality opponent, just as he did following the team’s win at Marquette.
“I don’t know if ranked or unranked means as much to me as how our kids played against a very good Louisville basketball team,” Dougherty said. “It was good to see that. It was good for me to see how they enjoyed competing. I couldn’t be happier with our effort.”
TCU 71, No. 10 LOUISVILLE 46
Whitehead 1-8 0-0 2, Garcia 3-7 0-0 7, Dartez 2-6 4-4 8, Dean 1-6 2-2 5, Jenkins 1-3 1-2 3, Tinch 0-1 4-4 4, Diakite 1-3 0-0 2, Mohammed 0-2 0-0 0, Johnson 0-0 0-0 0, Current 0-0 0-0 0, Daniels 1-1 2-2 4, O’Bannon 3-7 1-2 9, George 1-5 0-0 2. Totals 14-49 14-16 46.
Chinweze 6-11 1-2 13, Ibikunle 2-3 0-0 4, Smith 4-10 7-7 17, Santee 6-11 6-6 20, Shropshire 2-11 5-6 9, Sloan 0-2 0-0 0, Dougherty 0-0 0-0 0, Markley 0-1 0-0 0, Curtis 1-1 0-0 3, Adams 0-0 0-0 0, Valsin 1-1 0-1 2, Pierce 0-4 3-4 3. Totals 22-55 22-26 71.