Even as his team has slipped to 1-7 in the Big 12, Trent Johnson keeps a little bit of a sense of humor.
Asked by reporters Monday how the TCU men are handling the disappointment of missed opportunity after missed opportunity, Johnson said dryly, “I was the only one at practice.”
He was kidding, of course.
But exaggeration can be a coping mechanism, and no one can blame Johnson for trying as the Horned Frogs continue to look for a way to break through in conference games. They have lost seven of eight after Saturday’s 83-66 loss at Iowa State, although it was only the second time the Horned Frogs didn’t give themselves a chance to win.
But that’s only small consolation.
“One-and-seven’s one-and-seven,” said Johnson, whose team hits the midway point of the Big 12 schedule on Wednesday at Baylor. “We’ve been in every game with the exception of two, but we haven’t been able to finish games. The bottom line is we need to play better. We need to have more guys contribute, need to have a lot of courage, a lot of confidence down the stretch in crucial situations.”
Johnson said the players have been strong mentally all season, however. And he doesn’t expect a letdown with 10 games left in the conference schedule. With 14 wins, the Frogs still have a shot at their winningest season in 10 years.
“We’ll figure it out. We’re OK,” Johnson said. “We’ll bounce back. We understand where we are, why we’re there. If we rebound the ball a little bit better, make a few more shots, make a few more free throws, eventually we’ll break through. Focusing on playing better is the key.”
Free throws remain a problem for the Horned Frogs, who were 1-of-8 on Saturday against Iowa State to slip to 60.2 percent for the season.
But it’s not a surprise.
“We knew this coming out of spring, coming out of summer, that we were not a very good free-throw shooting team,” Johnson said. “That’s hurt us in a lot of close games.”
The Frogs’ best foul shooter is Kyan Anderson, who has made 79 of 90 (87.8 percent). Backup point guard Chauncey Collins has made 21 of 28 (75 percent). But no one else is above 60 percent, except Christian Gore, who is 2-for-2.
Chris Washburn has given the Horned Frogs more punch in the last three games, averaging 9.3 points and 8.0 rebounds. He’s also recorded five assists over the last two games.
“Offensively, he’s starting to play a little better,” Johnson said. “He’s just going to continue to get better as he moves forward. He needs to do a better job on the glass. He hasn’t played perfect, but he hasn’t played in a while, so he’s coming around.”
Washburn, a sophomore forward from Grand Prairie, sat out last season after transferring from UTEP, as did Trey Zeigler, who transferred from Pittsburgh.
“This game is hard enough to play when you’re out there playing all the time,” Johnson said. “It took them both a while to get in rhythm, in terms of this level, the Big 12, getting accustomed to it.”
Baylor coach Scott Drew said his team had one of its least efficient games on offense against TCU the first time the teams played. The teams meet again Wednesday in Waco.
“Offensively, we weren’t very good at all,” he said. “I know statistically, our assist to turnover ratio was one of our worst all season long against them because of their defense.”
Baylor won 66-59 in overtime on Jan. 10 at Wilkerson-Greines.
“I remember it was a great game,” Drew said. “It was back and forth. Like any other Big 12 game, usually it comes down to a few possessions. We were fortunate enough in overtime to get some separation. Defensively, they did a great job against us.”
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407
TCU men at Baylor
7:30 p.m. Wednesday,