TCU dominates second half for win over Ponies

by Dan M | Posted on Thursday, December 6th, 2018

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BY:  Dic Humphrey                                                                                                                                             Member U. S. Basketball Writers’ Association

UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas – TCU met SMU in a basketball contest for the 193rd time Wednesday night in Moody Coliseum and came away with a 67-59 victory in the lowest scoring game of the season for both teams.  The Horned Frogs came back from a halftime deficit to play a tremendous second half for the win.  Defense was the key, as TCU held the Mustangs to just 24% shooting after intermission.

“We gutted it out, grinded it out as we didn’t make shots early,” TCU Head Coach Jamey Dixon said after the game.  “We got it done by our defense.  36%, 24% in the second half.  Just got it done by finding a way.  We got better shots in the second half.  (I’m) real happy with our guys, the way they did it.” 

The official paid attendance was 5,929, the largest crowd at Moody Coliseum this season, though still fewer fans than the smallest crowd at Moody last season.  They were loud and lively, and both teams were energized by the atmosphere.

The teams came out of the shoot playing hard and aggressive.  Indeed they looked nervous.  Both teams uncharacteristically turned the ball over early, and both uncharacteristically missed three point shots early.  The teams combined to go 0-10 over the first 10 minutes from beyond the arc.  

After those first 10 minutes, both teams settled down to play solid basketball.  SMU finally began to pull away in what had been a back and forth game.  The Mustangs twice pushed the lead out to 10 points, but saw the Horned Frogs cut the margin to six at halftime – 35-29.  

TCU came out strong in the second half, tying the game at 44 and taking the lead for good at 49-47.  The Frogs outshot SMU 50% to 24% in the second half to outscore the Mustangs 38-24 after intermission.  The difference was especially noticeable at the three point line, where TCU made six to just one for the Mustangs.

Dixon talked about his adjustments in the second half, saying, “We played smaller.  They were tagging our bigs as we knew they would.  They got some fouls early and put them at the free throw line.  The main thing was we really wanted to guard the three.”  Starting center Kevin Samuel ended up playing just 10 minutes in the game to make way for the smaller lineup.

“I felt like our guys competed great,” SMU Head Coach Tim Jankovich said.  “I thought we had tremendous effort, tremendous energy, intensity, focus, attention to detail.  I thought it was all great.  The reason we lost the game was shooting 24% in the second half.  Defensively, we were great the first half.  (Jaylon) Fisher hits the big threes in the second half.  Give him a lot of credit.  He’s coming back from injury.  He certainly played with a lot of confidence.”

Fisher and J. D. Miller were the Frogs’ leading scorers with 15 apiece.  Both were hot in the second half with each scoring 12 points.  Fisher’s scoring came on five made three point baskets.  Kouai Noi was the other TCU player in double digits with 12 points.  Miller also led the Frogs with seven rebounds.

Jahmal McMurray, the Mustangs’ leading scorer on the season, was the leading scorer in this game with 19 points.  He was a volume shooter on this night hoisting up 22 shots, half of which were three pointers, to knock down the 19 points.  He shot just 36% on the night including 18% from the three point line.  Isiaha Mike and Feron Hunt also scored in double digits with 14 and 11 points respectively.

Hunt is the Mustangs top freshman recruit, and he continues to get better.  He probably had extra motivation in this game, as the Desoto, Texas native originally committed to TCU, but later switched his commitment to the Mustangs.  He played a season high 25 minutes, and was on the court at crunch time late in the game.  He was the leading rebounder in the game with eight.    

While the game was close, it was definitely a match between two teams going in opposite directions.  TCU is definitely on the upswing.  They were ranked in the Top 25 for the first three weeks of the season, and still received votes this week in the AP poll.  In post-season play, the Frogs won the NIT two years ago and suffered a first round loss in the NCAA Tournament last year.  They look like they are on their way to another NCAA Tournament appearance this season.  Recruiting-wise, TCU signed three high schoolers in November, all four star prospects ranked in the top 100 by 24/7 Sports.  They improved to 6-1 on the season, Dixon’s third as head coach.

This is also SMU Head Coach Tim Jankovich’s third year at the helm.  His team fell to 6-4, including three losses at Moody Coliseum.  Prior to this season, the Mustangs had lost just once in non-conference home games since Moody Coliseum re-opened in 2014 after a $50 million renovation.  SMU has now lost seven of their last 12 home games.  They are ranked 134th in the Sagarin ratings, and looking like they will be shut out of post-season play for the second straight year.  The two recruits they signed last month are three star prospects that are not even ranked in the top 300.

Both teams hit the road for their next game.  TCU goes to Los Angeles to play Southern California in the Basketball Hall of Fame Classic in Staples Pavilion on Friday night.  Game time is 8:30 PM Central, and the game will be televised on FS1.  SMU goes east to Washington, DC to face the Georgetown Hoyas on Saturday in the Capital One Arena.  Game time is 11:00 AM (Central), and it will also be televised on FS1.

NOTABLE:

  • The all-time series now stands at 106 wins for SMU and 87 wins for TCU. 
  • TCU senior guard Alex Robinson moved into third place on the Frogs’ all-time assist list.  He dished out seven in the game after coming in leading the country in assists per game. 
  • At halftime, SMU honored alumnus David B. Miller by naming the Moody Coliseum basketball court after him.  Miller played basketball when he attended the school, and he has been extremely generous in his financial support of the basketball program.  He and his wife Carolyn Lacy Miller have donated $20 million toward the expansion and renovation of Moody Coliseum.  
  • The early signing date for football recruits is fast approaching, and at this point, SMU has 18 verbal commitments for the 2019 recruiting class.  Verbal commitments are not binding, but the Mustangs’ class is ranked as the best in the American Athletic Conference. 
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