About the only silver lining with TCU’s injury troubles over the last year is the playing time it has required of the Horned Frogs’ bench.
When Amric Fields returns to the court — and coach Trent Johnson indicated the forward who broke his hand in November is likely to return to practice after a Christmas break — the bench will be deeper for it.
TCU’s 70-58 win over Tulsa on Saturday afternoon at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum was a great example of the bench coming up big with the game on the line.
Thomas Montigel, Christian Gore and Charles Hill Jr. combined for 14 points and helped the Frogs (8-3) pull away from the Golden Hurricane midway through the second half.
Kyan Anderson led the Frogs with 25 points and Brandon Parrish had 17, including 12 in the second half.
TCU went on a 13-2 run early in the second half and finally took the lead after two Montigel free throws with 12:06 remaining. A Jarvis Ray tip-in with 11:25 left gave TCU the lead for good.
“You can’t say enough about a kid like him who comes out every day, understands his role, whether it’s scout team or he is the backup,” Johnson said of Montigel.
Later, with Tulsa still within 53-48, Gore was fouled on a drive to the basket and made both free throws. Montigel had a steal at the other end, and Parrish’s pull-up jumper put TCU up by nine.
“It’s very important to get some of the guys like Kyan, Jarvis [Ray] and Karviar [Shepherd], who play a lot of minutes, some rest,” said Montigel, who had six points and three rebounds. “So the bench plays a big part. The defense definitely sparks the offense. You get a little momentum once you get a couple stops.”
Tulsa (4-8) built a 10-point lead in the first half behind James Woodard and Rashad Smith, who combined for 17 first-half points. Shepherd hit a baseline jumper and a couple free throws in the final 3:21 to cut the Golden Hurricane’s lead to 36-29 at halftime.
TCU’s defense picked up in the second half, however, and limited Woodard and Smith to a combined 10 points. Tulsa was held to 22 second-half points.
TCU also beat Tulsa 72-65 at the Great Alaskan Shootout on Nov. 29. The Frogs return to action Dec. 29 when Texas Southern comes to DMC for the last nonconference game before Big 12 play begins on Jan. 4.
“It’s hard to beat a team twice,” Anderson said. “After halftime we figured out what we were supposed to do with the zone to make it tougher for them to make shots, and I feel like we did a better job in our zone defense.”
Johnson pondered his team’s identity as his players take a four-day break for Christmas. It’s a tough proposition, considering the Frogs have played most of their season without Fields and Hudson Price.
“I don’t really know what our identity is right now,” Johnson said. “I’d like it to be on the defensive end, I’d like it to be on the rebounding end. We have to improve in those areas, but I know one thing: We’re finding ways to win games and we’re getting contributions from everybody. And that speaks volumes to be a good team. We just need to be consistent.”