Men’s basketball looks to end free throw shooting woes

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    In its 64-61 loss to No. 9 Kansas, the TCU men’s basketball team shot just 51.7 percent (15-for-29) from the free-throw line.

    The Horned Frogs also struggled from the free-throw line in their 86-85 overtime loss to No. 17 West Virginia, going 28-for-44 overall and 3-for-6 in the overtime period.

    The inability to make crucial free throws is a big reason why the Frogs have lost seven of their first eight Big 12 games after going undefeated in nonconference play.

    TCU has either led or trailed by single digits in the final five minutes in five of their seven losses. Additionally, the Frogs have only lost by an average of 8.9 points per game.

    As senior point guard Kyan Anderson acknowledged via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram though, the team must be better from the free-throw line in order to win tight games.

    “It’s points,” Anderson said. “If we knock down half the ones that we miss, it’s a different outcome in probably these last couple of games. It’s really just a confidence thing, stepping up and knocking them down.”

    The Frogs will have an opportunity to correct their mistakes this week against two more ranked opponents: No. 20 Baylor and No. 24 Oklahoma.

    The Bears (15-5 overall, 3-4 Big 12) defeated the Frogs (14-7, 1-7 Big 12) in overtime 66-59 in their first conference matchup of the season. TCU has not played the Sooners (13-7, 4-4 Big 12) yet, but the Frogs are 1-3 against them since joining the conference.

    Head coach Trent Johnson said the issues his team is having from the free-throw line are more mental than physical.

    “I can’t tell you how many times guys come in on their own, try to shoot them,” he told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “It hurts, but they’re not trying to miss them. They work at it. They’re not trying to miss them.”

    Johnson also said the Frogs have not lost any fight throughout their rough stretch.

    “These kids and me and our staff, we don’t feel good,” he said. “There’s a frustration level… They don’t like losing, I don’t like losing.”

    Baylor has won five of their last seven games after going 0-2 to start conference play. The Bears have held their opponents to an average of 62.6 points per game during that span.

    Junior forwards Taurean Prince and Rico Gathers will be key players for the Frogs to contain.

    Prince is averaging 14 points and 6.4 rebounds over his last five games, and he also notched a double-double (17 points and 10 rebounds) in the Bears’ win over TCU. Gathers controlled the paint all game long, scoring 17 points and grabbing 18 rebounds in the victory.

    Oklahoma is on a two-game winning streak after dropping four of their previous five games. The Sooners dominated Texas Tech 81-36 before defeating Oklahoma State 64-56 and completing a season sweep of the Cowboys.

    Junior guard Buddy Hield has upped his game for the Sooners since the start of Big 12 play. Hield is averaging 17.5 points per game this season, but he has scored 20 points per game in Big 12 competition and 21 points per game over his last seven games.

    Junior forward Ryan Spangler is another player the Frogs must stop. In Oklahoma’s two victories over TCU last season, he averaged 11.5 points and 11 rebounds per game.

    Most importantly, the Sooners are shooting 73.6 percent from the free-throw line and the Bears are shooting 65.9 percent. Shooting just 60.2 percent from the free-throw line, TCU ranks No. 348 in the nation in free-throw percentage.