‘There are no shoulda, woulda, couldas.’ TCU falls short in winnable game at Oklahoma

TCU had a chance to end a drought that dates back to the 1990s on Saturday. The Frogs have defeated a ranked team on the road just once – Jan. 19, 1998 at No. 24 Hawaii – in program history.

With Kouat Noi having a career day and TCU leading with less than a minute left, it looked like the drought might end. But all of it went for naught.

No. 23 Oklahoma made the plays it had to down the stretch, and survived 76-74 over TCU at Lloyd Noble Center.

TCU has now lost 48 straight against ranked teams on the road. The Frogs also remain winless when facing OU in Norman (0-12).

“Obviously we felt like we should have won the game, but we didn’t,” said coach Jamie Dixon, who is now 3-16 against ranked opponents in his TCU career.

“There are no shoulda, woulda, couldas. We’ve got to defend better.”

Oklahoma shot 49 percent from the field, including 57 percent in the second half. The Sooners were led by junior forward Kristian Doolittle who scored a season-high 24 points on 9 of 12 shooting, and senior guard Christian James who scored 15.

Doolittle and James were the reasons why OU rallied late. TCU was leading 71-69 with less than a minute left, but freshman guard RJ Nembhard turned it over with 52 seconds left.

That led to an easy layup for James, who made it a three-point play by drawing a weak foul by TCU senior point guard Alex Robinson.

James made the free throw to give the Sooners a 72-71 lead. Nembhard, who is starting in place of an injured Jaylen Fisher, missed a layup on the next possession. OU extended its lead to 74-71 on a pair of free throws by Doolittle.

Robinson redeemed himself with a game-tying 3-pointer with 16 seconds left. That was short-lived though.

Doolittle got a nice look by driving to the basket on TCU center Kevin Samuel, and knocking down a short jumper for a 76-74 lead with 2.8 seconds left.

TCU freshman Kendric Davis put up the final shot at the buzzer, clanking it off the rim. The play had been designed to go back to Robinson, or possibly Noi, but Davis got the final look.

“We were hoping maybe Alex could get the touch, but just how it is,” Dixon said. “You’re in a tough spot, 2.8 seconds. You’ve got a shot at the rim, a pretty good look when you consider the timing of it all.”

In the end, it marked the second consecutive loss for TCU. Outside of the Oklahoma’s high field goal percentage, Dixon wasn’t pleased with the second-chance points.

TCU had an impressive day on the boards, getting 17 offensive rebounds, but converted that into just eight points. Senior forward JD Miller had six offensive rebounds, but was just 2 of 11 from the field. Samuel had five offensive rebounds, but was just 3 of 9 from the field.

OU entered the game as the Big 12’s best defensive rebounding team too.

“We’ve got to finish the play,” Dixon said. “You can’t get 17 offensive rebounds and not finish the plays.”

Added Robinson: “It is difficult, but we have nobody to blame but ourselves. They shot a really high percentage from the field. That’s not part of our identity, or what we thought our identity was coming into Big 12. We’ve got to be better.”

TCU won the rebounding battle, 42-36, which ranked as OU’s worst rebounding margin this season. But the Frogs also gave up 36 points in the paint.

It simply wasn’t meant to be for the Frogs.

Noi’s career day was bittersweet. He drained three consecutive 3-pointers during a 13-0 run in the first half, and finished with a career-high eight 3-pointers. The eight 3-pointers are tied for second-most in a game in program history.

“Just a credit to my teammates for finding me when I was open,” Noi said.

Said OU coach Lon Kruger: “He shoots it so well. That’s the starting point. He gets rid of it quick. He shoots it deep. He’s a terrific shooter and we didn’t do what we had to do.”

But Noi took no joy in his big game on the heels of a loss. The focus now turns to Tuesday with a matchup against West Virginia in Fort Worth.

“Just have to go back to TCU and work on what we have to work on,” Noi said. “Get ready for the next game.”

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