Take note of this quote from TCU freshman Karviar Shepherd from about 9:15 Wednesday night. If and when coach Trent Johnson turns the Horned Frogs’ program around, they may eventually etch Shepherd’s words into a statue at the renovated Daniel-Meyer Coliseum.
After the Horned Frogs lost 82-50 to No. 9 Oklahoma State in front of an announced crowd of 8,890 at Gallagher-Iba Arena, Shepherd was asked if defense was still the team’s biggest liability.
“Defense and toughness. We still need to work on that,” he said. “[We’re] constantly doing defensive drills and rebounding drills and getting better at those positions because defense wins championships, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
If and when the Frogs start winning regularly in the Big 12, it likely will be on the back of players such as Shepherd, who for the first time in league play asserted himself offensively and finished with a career-high 13 points.
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Even with TCU down by 23 points with 6 minutes remaining, Shepherd was still clapping encouragement to his teammates, who all knew the night was done.
“The kids’ spirits are good as they can be because they understand,” Johnson said, reluctantly reminding the Oklahoma State media that two key players — Amric Fields and Hudson Price — are still working back into playing shape. Both played a season high in minutes Wednesday — 33 for Fields, 21 for Price.
Johnson spared them the tale of his three players sitting on the bench because of injury or transfer rules. He also didn’t mention that guard Charles Hill Jr. is no longer available because of academic issues. That leaves Johnson with eight available scholarship players the rest of the season.
The Cowboys (15-2, 3-1 Big 12) eventually built an 11-point lead late in the first half and TCU (9-7, 0-4) never pulled any closer the rest of the game. The Frogs have lost their last two games by a combined 58 points.
“I’m a realist. Baylor is better than we are. Oklahoma State is better than we are. They’re deeper, they’re more talented,” Johnson said. “And that’s just the reality of it. It’s important for me, in my position, that the kids understand that and understand the big picture. You want to go into battle with all your bullets, but we don’t have all our bullets. But we don’t expect anybody to feel sorry for us.”
Despite OSU’s Marcus Smart opening the game with three 3-pointers and the Cowboys making 7 of 11 from the 3-point arc in the first half, TCU stuck around for a while.
The Frogs matched the Cowboys on the boards at the half with 17 rebounds each. But eventually, TCU’s bad shooting night (29.1 percent) and the depth disparity allowed OSU to roll. Smart led OSU with 20 points and five assists and was one of four Cowboys with eight rebounds.
“I thought for the first half we played the best basketball we have for a long time, and then their athleticism, their talent, all that stuff, wore us down,” Johnson said. “In the second half, it didn’t get away from us; they were just better. I thought our guys were engaged versus high-caliber competition for the first time all year.”