Gil LeBreton

TCU’s 1-9 conference plummet now snowballing

Kyan Anderson the Horned Frogs were overwhelmed Saturday by Frank Booker and the Sooners.
Kyan Anderson the Horned Frogs were overwhelmed Saturday by Frank Booker and the Sooners. Special to the S-T

When you can’t consistently put the ball in the basket — a frequent TCU lament in this Big 12 season — confidence wanes.

Trepidation takes hold. Frustration sets in.

Against a handsy, lengthy Oklahoma team Saturday, all of the Horned Frogs’ frustrations and futilities again were laid bare.

TCU missed its first 13 shots. It turned 13 offensive rebounds in the first half into only six points. And with their deficit growing in the second half, the Frogs managed to hit just 3 of 10 free throws.

Add it all up against a No. 21-ranked Sooners team, and it spelled a 68-56 defeat, TCU’s ninth in 10 conference games.

“Those are the things that are happening, and it’s a tough time for them,” coach Trent Johnson said of his Horned Frogs, “because to a man, they didn’t think they’d be in this situation, where they’re 1-9 in the league.”

After starting the season 13-0 against nonconference competition, the Frogs indeed have won only once.

Two league losses have come in overtime, and an earnest comeback against mighty Kansas fell nobly short.

But 1-9 is still 1-9, and Johnson sounds convinced that the losing has affected his team.

“I can’t sit up here and tell you what we did really well today,” Johnson said. “We competed pretty good for the most part.

“But the reason for a lot of things we didn’t do really well had a lot to do with Oklahoma. We’re in a stretch where that’s the sixth team we’ve played that’s been ranked. And every one of these basketball teams that’s ranked is deserving.”

Lately, Johnson said, when the Frogs have fallen behind, they’ve been quick to let a feeling of futility set in.

“That’s the thing that we have to get through our heads and have to fight through,” he said.

“One of things I talk to these guys about constantly is 13-0 and everybody was getting caught up in all that ranking. I’d always talk to them about how what’s down the line is down the line.

“Now here we are, and we’re not dealing with it very well.”

After 10 league games, a team that began the year 13-0 and looking like the Big 12’s best resurrection story has been finding itself overmatched.

Not hugely overmatched, but lacking in enough critical areas that the Frogs have been unable to get over their Big 12 hump.

After the 13-0 start to the season, entering February with three or four conference victories didn’t appear to be a major reach.

Now, however, even staying above the .500 overall mark is going to be a challenge.

For what it’s worth, Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger was impressed by his first look at this season’s Frogs.

“For sure, every year you can see it coming, see the progress they’re making,” Kruger said. “Consistency, both fundamentally and defensively, they’re really good.

“They’ve been a little streaky shooting the ball from the perimeter, shooting from the free-throw line. But what Trent can control he’s done a fantastic job.”

Johnson described the Frogs’ current confidence level as “fragile.”

“I think a lot of things become contagious,” he said. “A lot of it has to do with competition sometimes — guys get sped up, start trying to do things they can’t do.

“But when you say confidence, contagious, yeah. Bad habits versus good teams become contagious, and it starts to snowball.”

Kruger is right. This is a better TCU team.

But Johnson would like to have more to show for it, a tall task with the Big 12 road that lies ahead.

“We’ll come out tomorrow at 7 p.m.,” he said. “We’re going to practice. We’re going to push a little bit, then go on the road to play a physical Texas team.

“In this league, there’s no rest.”

No, just snowballs.

Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697

Twitter: @gilebreton

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram