TCU men’s basketball Jamie Dixon has won enough games over 14 seasons at the Division I level to realize not all victories have to be beautiful to be effective.
The latest example surfaced Saturday when the Horned Frogs struggled from the foul line, squandered most of a double-digit lead during crunch time and still held off Wofford 72-63 to stabilize the psyche of a young team coming off its first loss of the season.
TCU (9-1) closed the game on an 8-2 run over the final 1:21 after the Terriers (3-7) closed an 11-point deficit to 64-61 and caused an uneasy quiet to fall over the fans in Schollmaier Arena.
But the Frogs prevailed behind Brandon Parrish’s momentum-shifting 3-pointer to answer Wofford’s 8-0 spurt, followed by a rare stretch of clutch free-throw shooting to cap an afternoon when the Frogs made only 24-of-41 from the stripe (58.5 percent).
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TCU made five of its last six free throws to return to the win column after Wednesday’s 74-59 loss to SMU knocked the Frogs from the unbeaten ranks just as TCU began receiving attention from Associated Press poll voters. Saturday’s up-and-down performance against Wofford probably won’t upgrade TCU’s “receiving votes” status when a fresh Top 25 surfaces Monday. But it provided a day brightener for forward J.D. Miller, who scored 12 points and finished as one of five Frogs in double figures.
“We really needed that,” Miller said. “Coach emphasized in practice, ‘Don’t worry about the loss we just had. Just move forward.’ This game, I wanted to attack the basket. That was all I was thinking.”
Miller was one of nine Frogs to shoot at least two free throws Saturday after Dixon stressed the need for more physical play following the loss at SMU. After attempting a season-low 12 free throws against the Mustangs, the Frogs shot a season-high 41 times from the line against Wofford.
I thought we could have played better. We’re disappointed ... but a lot of people would like to be 9-1 and 16th in the RPI.
TCU men’s basketball coach Jamie Dixon
The parade to the charity stripe pleased the Frogs’ first-year coach, particularly on a night when Wofford attempted just eight free throws. The low conversion rate did not.
“We’ve got to make free throws. Those are killing us,” Dixon said. “We got beat at the line the other night and we beat them at the line tonight. That was the difference. But it’s like (a rash of turnovers) when you go 24-for-41. We’ve got to do a better job in that area or you’re hurting yourself.”
Dixon also said TCU, positioned at No. 16 in the latest RPI rankings, has “a higher level that we can play at” than the Frogs displayed Saturday.
Wofford coach Mike Young offered no complaints about the 41-8 disparity in free throw attempts because his team, in his estimation, did not push the action enough on the offensive end.
“Victory favors the teams that are more aggressive. They were more aggressive than we were,” said Young, who described the contest as “exceptionally well-officiated.” He also said the Terriers had “no matchup” answer for TCU’s 6-foot-7 guard Kenrich Williams, who posted his fourth double-double of the season (11 points, 13 rebounds).
Williams made three of TCU’s final five free throws, all in the last 58 seconds as the Frogs were putting away a tighter-than-expected victory over a team that remains winless against Division I opponents this season.
Dixon tweaked the starting lineup Saturday, going with forward Vladimir Brodziansky (10 points, 8 rebounds, 5 blocks) and guard Alex Robinson (4 points, 5 assists) from the opening tip based on recent production. But he stressed the lineup remains in flux as the Frogs prepare for their final two nonconference games before their Big 12 opener, Dec. 30 against Kansas.
“I thought we could have played better,” Dixon said. “We’re disappointed ... but a lot of people would like to be 9-1 and 16th in the RPI.”
WOFFORD (3-7): Jackson 4-9 0-0 9, Sawvell 6-10 0-0 12, Magee 5-14 6-6 18, Allen 0-3 0-0 0, Garcia 3-7 0-0 8, Lowery 1-1 0-0 2, J.Tucker 0-2 0-0 0, Pegram 3-3 0-0 6, Brooks 1-2 0-2 2, Theme-Love 2-4 0-0 4, Hoover 1-8 0-0 2. Totals 26-63 6-8 63.
TCU (9-1): Brodziansky 4-10 2-3 10, Miller 4-7 3-4 12, Robinson 1-6 1-2 4, K.Williams 2-4 7-12 11, Fisher 3-10 5-6 13, Washburn 0-0 1-5 1, Shepherd 1-1 3-4 5, B.Parrish 2-6 0-0 6, Bane 4-5 2-3 10, Trent 0-0 0-2 0. Totals 21-49 24-41 72.
Halftime—TCU 31-26. 3-Point Goals—Wofford 5-20 (Garcia 2-4, Magee 2-8, Jackson 1-1, Allen 0-1, Theme-Love 0-1, Sawvell 0-2, Hoover 0-3), TCU 6-19 (B.Parrish 2-6, Fisher 2-6, Robinson 1-2, Miller 1-3, K.Williams 0-2). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Wofford 29 (Sawvell 13), TCU 39 (K.Williams 13). Assists—Wofford 11 (Garcia 6), TCU 16 (Robinson 5). Total Fouls—Wofford 28, TCU 10. A—5,822 (7,201).