Why TCU feels it has a chance to ‘make a big run’ in second half of Big 12 play

TCU senior guard Alex Robinson doesn’t scour the internet for various “Bracketology” breakdowns. He prefers to wait until Selection Sunday and “the thrill” it provides.

That’s probably a good thing with the Frogs looking more like a bubble team following two blowout road losses at Texas Tech and Baylor last week.

But Robinson and the Frogs remain confident in themselves and feel they’ll trend in the right direction again against Oklahoma State on Wednesday night at Schollmaier Arena at 8 p.m.

“We have a really good chance to make a big run in the second half of the Big 12,” Robinson said. “We have a lot of home games. Our away games seem pretty manageable at this point.”

Winning at home is essential in the Big 12. TCU (15-6, 3-5 Big 12) is 3-0 in league play at home, and 0-5 on the road. And Oklahoma State (9-12, 2-6 Big 12) is in a down year, although its defeated a Top 25 team (LSU) as well as Texas.

The Cowboys are potent from 3-point range, too. They are the Big 12’s best 3-point shooting team at 38.6 percent, led by the conference’s best shooter, Lindy Waters III, from deep (46.5 percent).

Oklahoma State junior Thomas Dziagwa is another outside threat as he leads the conference in 3-point field goals made per game (3.0).

“They’re really talented. They’re dangerous,” Robinson said. “But we need to make sure that we handle our business and do what we’re supposed to do on the defensive end.”

The past two games, TCU hasn’t done what it’s needed to do on the defensive end. The Frogs are one of the best teams in 3-point defense, but Texas Tech made nine 3-pointers in its rout and Baylor poured in 15 3-pointers.

Defending the perimeter was an emphasis in each game, coach Jamie Dixon said, but it simply didn’t happen. Maybe it was focus. Maybe it was a lack of intensity, as Robinson mentioned.

Whatever the reason, TCU knows it can’t let it happen again. The Frogs have to return to being solid guarding the perimeter.

“If you don’t do what you do well, you’re going to struggle,” Dixon said. “That’s obviously what’s happened for us.”

Record watch

Robinson is expected to become TCU’s all-time assists leader on Wednesday. He is just three assists away from tying Corey Santee’s record of 575 career assists, and four assists from breaking it.

Robinson has had fewer than four assists in just two of the Frogs’ 21 games.

“Obviously a big part of our offense comes from his penetration and his dishing it out,” Dixon said. “There’s good stats to be excited about. You want guys to be hungry for rebounds and assists. You can handle that one.

“We’re excited for him.”

Robinson has talked about the importance of the record for him, and it makes it even more special that Santee is now a graduate assistant on the staff. Robinson and Santee have a brotherly-type relationship.

But, for Robinson, the top priority Wednesday is getting a win.

“That’s the main focus,” Robinson said.

Players’ progress

Development isn’t a word Dixon likes to use when talking about his team. It has a “rebuilding”-type connotation attached to it.

TCU expects to compete and win games. But the Frogs have five freshmen players, redshirt or true, and their progress down the stretch will dictate how this season goes.

“You just want improvement as you’re progressing and as you’re going through conference and as you’re playing,” Dixon said. “We need to get them better. We need to get them more productive.

“We need improvement from everybody, but you think that the freshmen have that bigger margin to improve, bigger window. I’m excited about those guys. I’m excited about what they can become and what they’re going to give us down the stretch here.”

One freshman who started Big 12 play out well, but has seen his minutes decline since, is Keller product R.J. Nembhard. Dixon said Nembhard’s reduced role have been a product of different rotations he prefers, as well as Nembhard simply not playing as well as he had to start Big 12 play.

“He’s done some good things. We’re hoping he can get better and will get better,” Dixon said. “But the good thing was that he was ready to go in the second half [at Baylor] and did some good things.”

Nembhard went 2-for-5 from the field, including 1-for-2 from 3-point range, scoring five points in eight minutes of action in the second half in Waco.

Injury updates

Robinson exited the Baylor game with an apparent left wrist injury, and is also battling a right hand injury. He said both were feeling better Monday, and he expected to be full-go by Wednesday.

Junior guard Desmond Bane didn’t practice last week with an illness, and managed it enough to play Saturday. He is feeling better, though, and the hope is he returns to being a scoring threat after being shutout in the first half the past two games.

Final word

“It’s our league. It’s ups and downs. It’s who’s healthy, who’s playing well, who’s on the road, who’s at home. Everybody goes through a run. Everybody goes through a slide.” -- Dixon on the Big 12 and his team’s two-game losing streak

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