To bridge the gap between the month long completed football season and the dawning of what will hopefully be a more rewarding year on the diamond, we're going to introduce a new segment to SpitBlood. We're going to call it "Stay Positive: A TCU Basketball Saga" and it will go as such: TCU Basketball is going to lose games. TCU Basketball is going to lose quite a few games. But, based on Saturday's moderately gritty performance, other than against the top of the MWC, they shouldn't be absolutely run off the floor in any game this season. I say "shouldn't" because I lack the confidence required to say with any certainty that they won't, but it's a start. So after each loss - and with a game against a pissed off UNLV team coming up on Wednesday, expect another one of these suckers first thing Thursday - I want to take a brief look at the positive takeaways even though the final score wasn't in the Frogs favor. The idea is to generate hope and build fan support as the season rolls on. And if they manage to win a game or two? Well, I'm not exactly used to writing about THOSE types of games, so it'll be back to the drawing board!
Today's Episode: Colorado State 95, TCU 89 (2OT).
Despite an heroic rally- coming back from 12 points down late in the second half to force OT on two CLUTCH free throws from Amric Fields- the Frogs fell by six to the Rams to open the final year of MWC play. It was the team's 12th consecutive road loss in Conferece, a streak that looks to continue Tuesday in Las Vegas. After forcing double OT on a driving lay in by Fields, the TCU D got a teency bit slappy in the last five, surrendering nine free throws that made up the difference. It wasn't the prettiest performance by TCU - they shot WAY too many threes, going 12-31 on the night, turned the ball over 18 times for 27 points, were out rebounded 42-32 by one of the few teams in the country worse than they are in that category and allowed the Rams to shoot 55% from the floor- but it wasn't all bad.
For one, the play of Amric Fields - my no brainer bright spot of the first half season, for the 4 of you who read it - surely turned the heads of even the most detached of TCU fans who may have followed along on their iPhones. Despite coming off the bench, he finished with 36 minutes, scored 20 points on 67% combined shooting, and iced all five of his free throws. But it was his clutch play to keep the Frogs alive that really stood out. As mentioned, he was the reason the Frogs had a chance in either extra period in the first place, and his layup at the end of OT #1 was one of the biggest shots of the season.
However, I'd argue that his free throws to end the fourth were bigger. TCU has never been a great free throw shooting team, and only ranks 102nd in the category right now at 71.4%. This is an increase from the roughly 67% mark they shot last year, but still probably doesn't strike fear into the hearts of opponents. Saturday should make opposing teams think twice before simply hacking away and making TCU win that way, if it comes down to it. As a team, TCU shot 85% (17-20) for the evening, a pace no team in the country can hope to replicate, let along TCU, but a positive development considering past struggles. I honestly believe TCU will be involved in close games like this one more often than the alternative this season. A high free throw shooting percentage can be the difference between a win and loss in those types of games. This will definitely be an area to keep an eye on.
A tough mindset also played a key role Saturday as, without it, TCU doesn't fight back as a team to score the final 11 points and give Fields a chance to extend the game in the first place. This is part of the reason why they were run off the floor so often in years past. Hank Thorns came up huge when it mattered, tossing in 10 of his team high 21 points during the last 6 minutes of the second half. Garlon Green grabbed a couple of clutch rebounds, and was the only other Frog in double figures with 14 points. Still, TCU is going to need a lot more from him going forward if they hope to win some games. Same goes for JR Cadot, who only scored 8 points and played limited minutes due to foul trouble. I suppose you can get your "glass half full" on here and look at it from the perspective that the Frogs led in double OT despite a lack of significant contributions from two key players, but I'm not sure I'm THAT much of a homer.
Regardless, it was a hard fought game and gives me at least a semblance of hope for the future. Not necessarily "pilot episode of Homeland" style hope, but maybe "Angry Boys totally sucks but I'll give Chris Lilley rope to hang himself with because I owe him for Summer Heights High and what else am I gonna do at 9PM on Sunday night?" hope. A victory Wednesday would be among the more shocking in recent TCU Basketball history, but if the Frogs can at least make it moderately competitive, we all owe it to them to come back for at least a few more helpings.