By Jeff Wilson
Frogs Today senior writer
FORT WORTH — Reaching the NCAA Tournament at this point isn’t impossible for the TCU men.
They have seven games remaining, albeit on one of the nation’s most difficult remaining schedules. Four of the seven are on the road, and two of the three remaining home games are against Texas Tech and Kansas.
The odds might not look great, but it’s possible to still receive berth to the NCAA Tournament. Really, it is.
But the 54-51 loss Tuesday night to Iowa State, at home, just doesn’t make it seem all that possible.
“It was a game that we had to win, and we didn’t get it done,” TCU coach Jamie Dixon said. “So, we have to find a way to win on the road a number of games coming up here. We’ve got to find a way.”
TCU dropped 5-6 in conference play, 16-7 overall, and likely needs three more wins to stay on the tournament bubble. The Frogs are 2-4 at Schollmaier Arena, which Dixon said simply isn’t acceptable.
The loss Tuesday came against the last-place team in the Big 12, a team that had lost four straight and lost by 15 at home last month to TCU. Losers of consecutive games for the first time this season, the Frogs are staring a a third straight L on Saturday at No. 7 Baylor.
“To be honest, I think this is our biggest test right now,” junior forward Emanuel Miller said. “Everything we’ve done up to this point, we’ve shown that we can handle adversity, but I think our biggest test is this phase that we’re facing right now. Point blank.”
Iowa State survived a low-scoring game thanks to terrific guard play from Izaiah Brockington and Tyrese Hunter, while TCU guards Mike Miles Jr., Damion Baugh and Francisco Farabello shot a combined 4 for 25 and finished with 14 points.
Miles went 0-for-9 from the field and finished with three points. Farabello, Baugh and O’Bannon missed shots in the final minute while down 52-51. O’Bannon got an open 3-point look with five seconds left, but it was an airball and the rebound went off of Eddie Lampkin Jr.
The officials spent a few minutes looking at the replay, as the ball could have been touched by Iowa State forward Aljaz Kunc, but did not overturn their initial call.
“It looked like it was going in,” Lampkin said. “Then he pushed me and I tried to grab it, but he was pulling me back. To me, he touched it last.”
Brockington scored 20 points and Hunter added 15 to offset a career-high 16 points by Lampkin Jr. and 14 more from Miller.
Dixon thought Miles, TCU’s leader scorer, played well and made smart passes that either directly or eventually led to open shots. The Frogs, though, had trouble converting, shooting 35.7% and only 16.7% (3 for 16) on 3-pointers.
It’s hard to win without much production from the guards.
“We count on those guys, and they’re 2 for 8, 2 for 8 and 0 for 9,” Dixon said. “Our rotation never quite got to where we want it to get to, but we’ve got to know we got to knock down shots.”
The result is TCU making things harder on themselves down the stretch than they already were. It’s going to be difficult to find three victories in the country’s best conference, let alone the four the Frogs believe would punch their ticket back to the tournament.
“It was hard when the schedule came out,” Dixon said. “It’s a tough league. You’re going to have face adversity. Everybody’s got losses, as we know. We’ve responded before. We can’t question each other, and I don’t think we did that. I think we stuck together. We just didn’t get it done.”
Jeff Wilson, firstname.lastname@example.org