If he were an elementary school teacher, TCU coach Trent Johnson might well order his team to write on the blackboard 100 times “box out, rebound and make free throws.”
He is growing tired of repeatedly talking about a lack of execution of those elementary fundamentals, which have proved critical in keeping his Horned Frogs from discovering success in the Big 12 Conference.
After starting the season 13-0, TCU has dropped its first three games in the league — including an overtime loss to No. 22 Baylor on Saturday — to extend its conference loss streak to 21 games, dating to last season’s 0-18 campaign.
“The margin of error is very slim for us,” Johnson said during Monday’s Big 12 coaches conference call. “You can’t have mental lapses at crucial points in games, not against the teams in this league.
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“It changes everything.”
The Frogs have held every opponent but one this season to under 50 percent shooting, but have allowed too many extra possessions in conference play by not collecting enough missed shots on defense.
West Virginia and Baylor registered 21 and 22 offensive rebounds, respectively, against TCU. Kansas State had 15. The Mountaineers lead the Big 12 with an average of 18 per a game.
“We have to learn from it and go forward,” said Johnson, whose team will get plenty of more opportunities. The Frogs next play Saturday at Texas Tech.
TCU has also been giving away points, shooting a league-bottom 62 percent from the free-throw line after going 15-for-28 against the Bears.
The magic cure for that is repetition: More work in the gym, guard Kyan Anderson said.
“We know we’re a better team than what we’re showing,” Anderson said. “We’re beating ourselves more than anything.”
Baylor (12-3 overall, 1-2 Big 12) desperately needed a victory Saturday over TCU after beginning the conference season 0-2.
A loss to TCU and the Bears would have been staring at 0-4 with a home game looming against No. 11 Iowa State on Wednesday.
“Anytime you can get a road win is huge and hopefully gives your team some confidence,” said Bears coach Scott Drew, who assured his audience that his team was not looking ahead to the Cyclones. “The great thing about the Big 12 is you don’t have to worry about looking ahead.”
The Big 12 again demonstrated its muscle on Monday, boasting seven teams — Kansas (2), West Virginia (19), Iowa State (23), Baylor (26), Oklahoma State (27), Oklahoma (28), Texas (31) — in the top 31 in the RPI, a measuring stick for a team’s strength of schedule.
The ACC, Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12 have a combined total of 10 teams in the top 31.
Last week exemplified the strength of the Big 12 with then-No. 16 Oklahoma’s upset of Texas, Kansas State’s upset of Oklahoma in overtime, Iowa State’s upset of West Virginia on the road and unranked Oklahoma State’s upset of Texas in Stillwater.
No. 9 Kansas escaped Waco with a one-point victory over Baylor.
“There’s going to be things that happen because of the parity that you don’t expect to happen,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “You keep grinding.”
▪ Kansas State sophomore guard Marcus Foster was selected Big 12 player of the week after averaging 18.5 points in victories over TCU and No. 16 Oklahoma, a game in which he scored nine of his 14 points in the final 35 seconds of regulation and hit the game-winning 3-pointer in overtime.
▪ Texas coach Rick Barnes is battling through a backache after straining it bending over while putting up a pot in a kitchen cabinet. “I told my wife it’s obvious I’m not supposed to be washing pots,” Barnes said.
▪ Iowa State sophomore point guard Monté Morris has recorded one or zero turnover in eight consecutive games. He had 12 assists with just two turnovers in his past two games.
▪ Rico Gathers of Baylor has 14 career double-doubles, including seven this season after going for 17 points and 18 rebounds against TCU on Saturday. He has double figures in rebounds in seven consecutive games and 13 of 15 this season.
▪ Texas freshman forward Myles Turner of Euless Trinity has 10 blocked shots in his last three outings and entered this week fourth among freshmen nationally in the NCAA rankings.
▪ Texas Tech has the sixth-youngest starting lineup in NCAA Division I and one of seven schools to start three freshmen, including Norense Odiase, a freshman from North Crowley High School. Odiase, a 6-foot-9, 270-pound center, spent a year in prep school.