TCU isn’t quite at the halfway mark of the Big 12 schedule, but coming off a mid-week bye coach Trent Johnson and his team are treating Saturday’s game at Texas Tech’s United Spirit Arena in Lubbuck as such.
The Horned Frogs will be without freshman post Karviar Shepherd, who underwent surgery Tuesday on the pinky finger of his nonshooting left hand that was injured last Saturday against Kansas. Shepherd, the team’s leading rebounder, is expected to return next week, perhaps as early as Tuesday when No. 25 Texas comes to Daniel-Meyer Coliseum.
The Frogs (9-10, 0-7 Big 12) continue to seek their first conference victory. They’ll try again at 12:30 p.m. against Texas Tech with only seven scholarship players in their lineup.
Shepherd’s injury follows a long list of roster issues that have dogged Johnson during his first two seasons at TCU. The injuries include season-enders for Aaron Durley and Devonta Abron, and transfers Chris Washburn and Trey Zeigler are having to sit out this season.
That has left Johnson’s second season, which appeared promising before the injuries started stacking up in August, in shambles. Now, the idea of TCU matching or surpassing its 2-16 record in the Big 12 a year ago seems unlikely, if not impossible.
“In all aspects we need to improve,” Johnson said. “January hasn’t been very good to us. It’s not the second half of the season, but we’re looking at it like that. We need to get better in some areas where we’re capable of being better.”
That includes shooting better from the field and at the free-throw line and maintaining a solid assist-to-turnover ratio, which has taken a hit against some of the better teams in the league.
The Red Raiders (10-1l, 2-6) have lost three consecutive games since beating TCU 60-49 on Jan. 18. That was a closely contested game, but Tech held on in the final minute after the Frogs pulled to within three with 1:24 remaining.
Tech has had its own problems late in games. The Red Raiders trailed by four with three minutes remaining at Kansas State on Tuesday but couldn’t draw any closer. They trailed No. 23 Oklahoma by only six with less than five minutes to go Jan. 25, but couldn’t close the deal.