TCU coach Trent Johnson leaned back in his chair, rubbed his face in anguish and sighed.
"I just need to find a way to get these guys some more help," he muttered to himself as much as he said it to the media assembled after the Horned Frogs' loss at Baylor on Saturday.
"Geez," he said, shaking his head in disbelief.
He was speaking specifically about offensive help, something the Frogs (9-7, 0-3 Big 12) are in dire need of as they take on 16th-ranked Kansas State (13-2, 2-0) at 8:05 tonight at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum.
TCU's offensive struggles are an obvious problem during the Frogs' first run through the conference, but the low scoring is also part of the plan. Sure, only four out of 345 Division I teams in the nation are scoring fewer points than TCU, but Johnson knows the only way to beat Big 12 competition is to slow the pace. It may not work this season, but Johnson sees no other choice.
"Do I as a coach like to play slow? No, but we're doing what we have to do to give ourselves the best chance to compete," he said. "With our limited players and the talented players we've lost [to injuries], we have to slow it down against anybody."
He's also open to shuffling the lineup to find a hot hand. Against the Bears, freshman and Fort Worth Trimble Tech ex Charles Hill Jr. made his first career start and led the Frogs with 12 points.
"I think he understands you have to have a sense of urgency in practice and on every possession," Johnson said.
"I've seen signs of it in practice. Sometimes it takes some freshmen longer than other freshmen. Charles is a great kid. He listens, and he's willing to be receptive to coaching."
Plus, as Johnson pointed out, "He can shoot the ball, and we need that."
Hill was told he'd start against Baylor after TCU's loss at Oklahoma State in which he played a career-high 26 minutes.
"Not playing very much and starting in a big game like Baylor -- it helps my confidence a lot," Hill said. "Hopefully, in the long run we'll get better as a team and start winning more games."
TCU's defense, which helped keep the Frogs in the Baylor game until midway through the second half, can only do so much. When teams such as the Wildcats, who are second in the Big 12 in defense behind the Frogs, come along, any perceived defensive edge for TCU is dubious, leaving the offense's deficiencies exploited.
"It's another really tough challenge for our team," Johnson said. "They're not going to have many breakdowns offensively or defensively, so everything we get we're going to have to earn."
Kansas State coach Bruce Weber, who's in his first year in Manhattan after coaching at Illinois for nine seasons, said he reminded his team that no opponent, especially in conference play, can be taken lightly.
"They've had their struggles. They've had some injuries, but at the same time anyone can beat anybody, especially playing on the road," said Weber, whose team has won six consecutive games. "We've talked about whether we are going to be a good team, or do we have a chance to be a special team? The special teams come every game; they're ready to play, and they have consistency. That's the challenge I put up to our guys at this point."
The circumstances are different, but Johnson has given his team similar challenges.
"I'd love to be playing fast, but I have an old saying: We're going to play fast as we can play well," he said. "But from our standpoint ... we're not talented enough -- we're not deep enough -- to be trying to run up and down with any team in this conference, let alone nonconference. So we're kind of forced with the hand we have until we get our talent level up where it needs to be. We're having a hard time getting open shots ... but so be it."