In the past week, in visits to Ames, Iowa, and Lubbock, something clicked for TCU.
Now Trent Johnson would like to bring it to Fort Worth.
“Maybe this team is developing,” the Horned Frogs coach said. “But we’ve got to take our execution and our confidence, and we’ve got to take it home and play with that same level of execution and intensity.”
TCU didn’t win either of those games. But the 92-83 loss at Iowa State on Feb. 20 and the 83-79 loss at Texas Tech on Tuesday represented two of the Frogs’ best offensive games this season, maybe the best, considering the opponents and sites.
Sophomore guard Chauncey Collins scored a career-high 29 points against Tech in nearly leading the Frogs to an upset of a team closing in on an NCAA bid.
Freshman forward JD Miller had a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds in his first start, at Iowa State, and he had 10 points and six rebounds in Lubbock.
Brandon Parrish had a season-high 19 in Lubbock. Malique Trent had 17 points in Ames and 15 in Lubbock.
In the two games before Iowa State and Tech, TCU had been held under 50 points.
“The ball’s going in for us,” Johnson said. “So we’re shooting the ball with confidence. We’re rebounding the ball. So sometimes it takes time. If I knew that answer, I would have had it fixed a long time ago.”
TCU has at least four more chances to play like its new self, starting at 7 p.m. Saturday at Schollmaier Arena against No. 19 Baylor (20-8, 9-6 Big 12). Then it’s a game at Kansas State next week, followed by the regular-season finale at home against Oklahoma before the Big 12 tournament begins March 9 in Kansas City.
“I think that we can build off these last two games,” Parrish said. “Each of these last two games, we came out and gave it our all, competed as hard as we could, defended. We had shots going for us. If we can stick with this confidence, stick with this drive, good things can happen for us these last few games.”
If the Horned Frogs (11-17, 2-13) remain the 10th seed, they would meet the seventh seed. (Right now, that’s Iowa State or Texas Tech).
“When we play together and we play as one unit, the sky’s the limit for us,” Parrish said, asked if the performance in Lubbock, in which the Frogs shot 55.6 percent in taking a 14-point lead in the first half, is about as well as the team can play. “I’m not going to say that that’s the best we can play, but I think that we played really well [Wednesday night].”
And yet, nothing has really changed in what the Frogs are trying to do, Johnson said. Their game plan remains the same.
“The ball’s going in for them. Guys are playing with a level of confidence. That’s the bottom line,” Johnson said. “Sometimes it takes a while, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s no consolation when you get beat.”
But for Johnson, the Tech game was meaningful because the Red Raiders are more aggressive on defense than Iowa State.
“I take a lot of merit from this game and us being able to execute,” Johnson said. “They came out and took our wings away. They took Chauncey away, and we had to play through the post. We’re not doing anything different than we did at the start of the year. The ball’s just going in for kids.”
But maybe one thing is different. In the past week, the Frogs stuck with it.
“We have had our games where we haven’t fought. There have been games where we got down early and kind of threw in the towel,” Parrish said. “But I think that we learned from that.
“That’s one thing that Coach has taught us that we shouldn’t do — never quit this fight, despite how it’s looking or despite the outcome. You at least have got to give it your all each and every game, every minute that you’re out there.
“Because at the end of the day, eventually these minutes are going to be up.”
TCU men vs. No. 19 Baylor
7 p.m. Saturday, ESPNU