The TCU Horned Frogs brought something with them to Gallagher-Iba Arena Tuesday night.
The Horned Frogs, who led by as much as 16 in the second half, survived a late run to beat Oklahoma State 79-66.
It’s only the second time TCU has won in Stillwater. The last time was in 1925. It’s only the third time TCU has beaten Oklahoma State since joining the Big 12 in 2013.
“We did it with our defense. It’s been our weakness but it seems to be getting better,” said TCU coach Jamie Dixon. “These are benchmarks for us and milestones. I think we can do some good things in the second half of the conference season.”
Last week, the Horned Frogs (16-6, 4-5 in the Big 12) beat then-No. 7 West Virginia for the first time. The defensive intensity and execution was crucial for the Frogs in the win.
“That’s wild,” said Desmond Bane of the streak-snapping win in Stillwater. “Since I’ve gotten here it seems like everything we do is a first. We’re just trying to build the program up and leave some tradition behind.”
Against Oklahoma State, it was apparent that the Frogs had been hearing from Dixon about the lack of focus defensively in the three days since losing a nonconference game at sub-.500 Vanderbilt. Ahmed Hamdy, who missed the Vandy game because of an illness, was back Tuesday and provided nine points and four rebounds off the bench. Kouat Noi also added a lift off the bench and was one of five TCU players who scored in double figures.
But it was the defense that ruled the night for the Frogs. After the Cowboys (13-9, 3-6) cut TCU’s lead to six with 6:35 remaining, the defensive intensity went up a notch and TCU quickly pushed its lead back up to more than 10.
“We followed the assignments. We switched defenses a number of times during the game and we didn’t have any breakdowns as far as knowing what we were doing,” Dixon said. “I thought we had better communication on that and that’s something we’ve been struggling with. Hopefully the message is getting through.”
At the midpoint of the Big 12 season, Dixon is hoping a light has been turned on in the collective heads of his team. The light shines the message that improved focus on defense will lead to more wins. TCU’s offense is good enough to compete in the NCAA tournament. With a little defense, perhaps they’re good enough to make a run.
“You have to learn through mistakes and losses and I think we’re seeing that to a degree, especially on the defensive end. We’ve lost a lot close games to really good teams,” Dixon said. “We’re good. We expected to have a better record at this point but we haven’t deserved it, we haven’t played [up to that]. So hopefully we made some improvement, we’ve figured some things out and gotten better.”
The message is getting through.
“Coach has been talking about it for the last three days,” said Vladimir Brodziansky, who was one of five Frogs in double figures. “We lost six games by an average of three points. One or two more stops and we’re winning [those games]. We need to step it up.”