Defense may win championships, but in a battle of top offense against top defense, defense did not end up the victor.
The Iowa State Cyclones, the No. 1 offense in the Big 12, came away from the Daniel-Meyer Coliseum with a 63-50 victory over the TCU Horned Frogs.
"We've been here before," TCU head coach Trent Johnson said. "This was a carbon copy of the Kansas State game."
Senior guard Tyrus McGee led the Cyclones with 16 points, 13 of which came in the first half. His seven points, including a three-point shot and a dunk, were critical to a 14-4 run for Iowa State in the second half.
TCU, the Big 12's leader in scoring defense, saw four Iowa State players score double-digits and gave up 16 assists.
Offensively, the Horned Frogs shot 36.4 percent from the field and was 9-22 from the free throw line. Johnson said the defensive scheme of the Cyclones prevented effective play in the post, and forced the Horned Frogs to take lower percentage shots.
Although the team is improving, Johnson said, the process of improving mental decisions and overall play has been difficult.
"It's hard right now," he said. "Is this frustrating? I don't want to use the word frustrated because it takes a lot for me to get frustrated. I think the word, more than anything, is annoying."
Johnson was quick to defend his players and credited Iowa State for a tough game following that statement.
"These kids continue to fight and they continue to understand what we want done," he said. "These kids are playing against talented players who are 21, 22 years old. It's like playing a NBA D-League team."
TCU had a difficult time executing on second chance opportunities, scoring 14 points on 17 offensive rebounds. Iowa State scored 19 second chance points on 12 rebounds and the Cyclones out-rebounded TCU 38-33 overall.
Johnson elaborated on his team's ability to fight in a game, and said his players play with full effort in every game.
"I've never had a team that didn't play hard," he said. "That's a given. I'm at a point right now where it's almost an insult to me when they ask if they play hard, because it means you're not playing good basketball. These kids are going to play hard."
Johnson said TCU's slower style of play has not been a coaching strategy, but a forced style due to a lack of depth.
"Anyone who knows basketball and is watching this team knows that when we try to run with anybody, we're playing slow as hell right now and we're throwing the thing away," he said. "This is the last time I'm going to say it and you can dwell on it as long as you want. I hate playing slow."
"We're going to play as fast as we can play well. We're running the same stuff I've been running since I became a head coach."
Johnson used examples of his past teams, such as Nevada and Stanford's successes, as demonstrations of how his gameplay strategies can work.
"If you defend and you rebound, you can go the other way as fast as you want," he said. "When good teams get back though, that makes a good team."
Johnson said the physicality of the Big 12 has put TCU in a tough position, particularly because of a lack of depth. TCU lost forward Amric Fields, guard Jarvis Ray and center Aaron Durley to season-ending injuries earlier this year.
"We're five games into conference play and I'd like to put in Kyan [Anderson], but he's getting mauled," Johnson said. "If we're running up and down, he might not be able to make it."
Anderson, the starting sophomore guard for TCU, had two points and two assists in the loss to Iowa State. Forward Devonta Abron, forward Garlon Green and guard Charles Hill Jr. each contributed 10 points.
Iowa State improves to 13-4 (3-1 conference) on the year, while TCU drops to 9-9 overall without a win in Big 12 conference play.
TCU lost its first 5 conference games for the first time since 2001-02, when the Frogs were playing in Conference USA. The Horned Frogs lost their first 6 games that year, which was then-head coach Billy Tubbs' final season.