Rule No. 1:
Don’t wake the Bears.
Three weeks ago in Fort Worth, the TCU Horned Frogs, beaming in their glossy new Jamie Dixon paint job, actually led the nationally ranked Baylor Bears with 4 1/2 minutes to play.
But there lies the problem for the refurbished Frogs:
People have taken notice. TCU began Saturday with a 17-7 record – and not a shadow to hide in.
Especially in Waco, where the sixth-ranked Bears are 13-1 this season.
“They’re good,” Dixon said after Baylor had flattened the Frogs 70-52. “And they played good and we didn’t.
“We got what we deserved.”
As with many good coaches, Dixon tends to look first in his own locker room mirror when examining what went wrong after a loss. His initial distress Saturday, therefore, was predictable.
“We had one assist in the first half,” he said. “I’ve never been around a team that had only one assist in the first half.”
After running in stride with the Bears for most of the 40 minutes three weeks ago, the Frogs found a much different reception waiting for them at the Ferrell Center.
But, again, there’s the problem. TCU began the day tied for fourth place in the Big 12 Conference. After serving as perennial road kill at the league tournament, the Frogs are actually being mentioned for a possible NCAA bid.
“You can see they’re taking us more seriously,” said TCU junior Kenrich Williams. “I’ve been here two years, and I’ve seen teams just messing around, not taking us seriously.
“They’re going through their scouting reports and taking us more seriously this year.”
Having been poked, therefore, the Bears responded Saturday with clear eyes and a clawing defense.
With three minutes remaining in the first half, Baylor already had TCU in an 11-point hole. The Frogs were shooting 25 percent – 5 for 20 – from the floor and letting the Bears dictate the smothering pace.
Few teams can match up favorably with Baylor in a half-court game.
Dixon was asked what makes the Bears defense so good.
“The length, the age, the experience,” he said. “You’re talking about third-, fourth-, fifth-year guys in every case. I think that has a lot to do with it.
“They have good size, and they’re good in the zone and the man, which I think makes them a little different than other teams. They do a good job of changing up the defenses, and either one they call works. It’s a good problem to have.”
Jo Lual-Acuil stands a spidery 7-feet tall. Johnathan Motley and Terry Maston are 6-10 and 6-8, respectively. Baylor senior Ish Wainright is only 6-5 but built like a linebacker.
Dixon has coaxed brow-raising things from the Frogs this season, but his roster just isn’t in that weight class yet.
Motley finished with 25 points for the Bears in 31 minutes, and savvy point guard Manu Lecomte scored 17. The early dagger, however, was applied by King McClure, who scored all 13 of his point in the first half.
The Frogs themselves managed only 17 in that first half – 17 total. The night’s ending was already being written.
Not many college basketball teams could have beaten Baylor on Saturday, when faced with that kind of defensive effort.
“We put ourselves in way too big of a hole,” Dixon said, again pointing the finger in his own direction.
To be honest, though, this is what can happen when you drive through the old neighborhood, honking the horn, waking the Bears.
People take you seriously, as the Frogs can expect for the rest of this season.