After starting conference play with an 0-3 record, the TCU men’s basketball team (9-6, 0-3 Big 12) faces a tough road matchup against the #9 Oklahoma State Cowboys (14-2, 2-1 Big 12) on Wednesday night.
Before opening conference play on Jan. 4, the Frogs had won nine of their last 10 games. Since then, they have lost three in a row and are struggling to stay afloat in an ultra-competitive Big 12.
“It’s frustrating for me [and] for the kids,” TCU head coach Trent Johnson said. “Obviously, this league is what it is. It’s without a question the best league in the country.”
The Frogs are currently tied for last place in the conference with Texas Tech (8-8, 0-3 Big 12) and coming off an ugly loss to the #12 Baylor Bears (13-2, 1-1 Big 12) in which they were losing 51-25 at halftime.
“The thing that impressed me the most [about Baylor] was that they play hard but everybody understands their role and they play together,” Johnson said. “We didn’t give them a good match-up.”
TCU has lost their last two games by a combined score of 153-109.
“This team as a whole [during the last two games] has been pretty bad,” Johnson said.
After losing freshman center Aaron Durley and junior forward Devonta Abron to season-ending injuries before play even began, the Frogs have had to deal with a multitude of injuries plaguing them through the early season.
“The main thing for us is our health,” Johnson said. “Forget the Big 12. Going into this year, I thought if we could get healthy and remain healthy we could have a chance to compete at a high level. That hasn’t happened.”
The injuries have contributed to the team’s rebounding struggles, according to Johnson.
“Bottom line is we’re not able to simulate the kind of physicality in practice from a rebounding standpoint that we need to,” Johnson said. “We just need to compete at a higher level.”
The Frogs have been out-rebounded by a margin of 129-76 in their last three games
“When you have three guys sitting on the bench who can’t play [that are] 6’8” and above, it hurts,” Johnson said. “You can’t feel sorry for yourself. No one is gonna feel sorry for you.”
Oklahoma State currently leads the Big 12 in scoring margin, winning their games by an average of 19.5 points. The Frogs, on the other hand, are at the bottom of the conference in this statistic, winning only by an average of 0.3 points.
Sophomore guard Marcus Smart leads the Cowboys, averaging 17.8 points, 4.1 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game.
“He’s, without a question, the best player in the country, in my mind,” Johnson said.
Oklahoma State also leads the conference in steals (8.25 per game) and allowed field goal percentage (38.1 percent allowed per game).
Tip-off for Wednesday night’s matchup is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. The game is expected to be broadcast on the Big 12 Network.