The TCU men’s basketball team narrowly escaped another historic loss Tuesday, this time to Abilene Christian in the Wildcats’ first Division I season.
The Horned Frogs’ 71-64 win wasn’t pretty but was claimed by the end of TCU’s short bench.
Sophomore guard Christian Gore, a TCU walk-on, stepped into an expanded role because of injuries to Amric Fields and Hudson Price.
Gore, who attended high school in El Paso and played at Brown University before transferring to TCU, set a career high with 14 points including 12 from the free-throw line. In turn, he also broke his career records for free throws attempted and free throws made.
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“You’ve got 10 guys. You have three walk-ons and you have three freshmen. It’s not an excuse, but it is what it is, so it’s satisfying,” TCU coach Trent Johnson said of Tuesday’s win.
TCU entered the game coming off a 82-79 loss to Longwood University, the Lancers’ first win against a BCS conference school.
But when faced with a similar situation Tuesday after being tied at 58 with 5 minutes remaining, Johnson’s team held its composure.
Ultimately, the fight that TCU (1-2) gives leads to success with this beat-up Horned Frogs squad, Johnson said.
“Winning is hard, but do you know what’s harder?” Johnson asked. “Being competitive and competing your tail off every day.”
TCU shot 45 percent from the field Tuesday, including three 3-pointers.
But in the final stretch, the Frogs’ decisions to step inside and take higher-percentage shots sealed the victory.
Junior guard Kyan Anderson passed on an open 3-point shot to dribble to the free-throw line and break the 58-point tie. He followed that up on the next possession by drawing a foul and hitting two free throws to give TCU a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
“When you shoot the ball like this team is capable of shooting, it’s hard to do,” Johnson said of his team’s decision to find closer shots.
Anderson was held to only five points, but junior guard Ray Jarvis and freshman center Brandon Parrish took over as the team’s leading scorers with 18 and 15 points.
Johnson said the Frogs would have liked to work the ball more into freshman center Karviar Shepherd’s hands in the post. But with injuries to several of TCU’s big men, ACU clamped down on the post-entry pass, leaving Shepherd with only seven points.
However, as this TCU squad jells around its new lineup, the young center’s maturity stood out to Johnson.
“Until we get another bona fide post player in terms of a guy that can cause a team to defend, that’s what we’re looking at,” Johnson said. “I thought all in all Karviar did a good job of not getting frustrated.”
TCU will keep practice light the next few days until the team ships off for a four-game road trip beginning at Washington State and then to Anchorage, Alaska, for the Great Alaskan Shootout.
“I think this is a good time for this team as a whole to get away,” Johnson said.