Free throws are on the list of things to fix for TCU, which has missed 91 shots from the free throw line in Big 12 games.
The misses likely cost the Horned Frogs (14-6, 1-6) a chance to win their four closest games in league play — the overtime loss at home against Baylor, a five-point loss at Kansas State, a one-point overtime loss at West Virginia and Wednesday night’s three-point loss at home against Kansas.
In those games, lost by a total of 16 points, the Frogs missed 53 foul shots.
“About three weeks ago, we talked about having to get some things corrected,” coach Trent Johnson said. “We were getting pounded on the glass; we got that corrected in the last couple of weeks. So if we can get our free throws corrected and we continue to guard in the half- and full-court, maybe we’ll come in here one day, and I won’t be looking all crazy because we had a close loss.”
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TCU missed 14 free throws in the 64-61 loss to No. 9 Kansas and 16 in the 86-85 overtime loss at West Virginia. There were 13 misses in the 66-59 loss to Baylor and 10 in the 58-53 loss at K-State.
Even in a 20-point win at Texas Tech, the Horned Frogs missed 11 foul shots. Their worst performance, 9-for-23, came in their worst loss of the season, 66-48 to Texas.
“It’s points. If we knock down half the ones that we miss, it’s a different outcome in probably these last couple of games,” said guard Kyan Anderson, who is 82.9 percent (34-for-41) at the line in conference. “It’s really just a confidence thing, stepping up and knocking them down.”
The foul shooting pulls down the Horned Frogs’ strengths in other areas. They are second in the Big 12 in field goal-defense, 38.6 percent during conference, are tied for third in rebounding and third in turnover margin.
Johnson said the struggle at the line is mental, not from a lack of effort.
“I can’t tell you how many times guys come in on their own, try to shoot them,” he said. “A lot of people want to give expert advice — I think it’s comical, because if there were any free-throw gurus out there with great advice, Shaquille O’Neal would shoot a pretty good percentage. All we do as coaches is we shoot them, put them in situations where they’re tired and fatigued, and we shoot them, make sure they concentrate — elbow up, follow through, all those things. But it is what it is.
“It hurts, but they’re not trying to miss them. They work at it. They’re not trying to miss them.”
Johnson has avoided using the word frustration, but it’s a natural emotion following missed opportunities to close out games.
“These kids and me and our staff, we don’t feel good. There’s a frustration level,” Johnson said. “And I hate to use that word, but there’s a frustration level because this [Kansas] is the fourth game now where we’ve had an opportunity to play well and do a few things and maybe win the game.”
But he said he is encouraged by the Horned Frogs’ demeanor and resilience, which showed in a rally against Kansas.
“They don’t like losing. I don’t like losing,” Johnson said. “There was never a point in this game where I thought they weren’t going to try and fight back and compete. ... I could look in their eyes and see we’re going to be alright, we’re going to fight back and get in this thing.”
Anderson heating up
Anderson was only 5-for-18 shooting against Kansas, getting unlucky with some balls at the rim, but he still delivered 17 points. He scored 22 points the game before, so he may be heating up offensively.
“The main focus for me right now is just winning,” Anderson said. “Anything I can do to help this team win is the only thing that matters to me at this point.”
The senior guard said he doesn’t have to do most of the scoring.
“We have pieces that can score the ball,” he said. “Obviously, if we’re struggling, I want to force the situation and get those points. But it’s not a main focus of mine to try and score every bucket.”
▪ TCU has outrebounded each of its past two opponents by 10.
▪ Sophomore forward Chris Washburn’s 12 rebounds on Wednesday were a career high. Senior guard Trey Zeigler also had a career high in rebounds with 11.
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7760
TCU men at Iowa State
1 p.m. Saturday, ESPNU