The Dance continues: No. 22 TCU men’s basketball outlasts Arizona State in first round



TCU forward JaKobe Coles, left, reacts aftwer hitting the go-ahead basket in the second half of the team’s first-round college basketball game against Arizona State in the men’s NCAA Tournament on Friday, March 17, 2023, in Denver. (AP Photo/John Leyba)

By Sederick Oliver, Executive Editor, Image Magazine

Survive and advance.

The Frogs are dancing to the next round.

No. 22 and six-seeded TCU men’s basketball (22-12, 9-9) advanced past Arizona State, 72-70 in a thriller last night inside Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado.

With the world watching and expectations looming, TCU entered Ball Arena with a business-like approach.

No smiles, no laughter, no talking.

All business.

This approach carried over into the first five minutes of regulation where the Frogs jumped out to a 15-4 lead.

Redshirt senior Chuck O’Bannon Jr. scored immediately after the opening tip, setting the tone early for TCU.

Everyone got in on the action, including junior guard Mike Miles Jr. whose jump shot was stuck on automatic for the duration of the game.

At the 15:22 mark, a media timeout was taken and everything began to change.

A flip was switched for the Sun Devils and the Frogs were helpless to stop the transformation.

ASU drained 3-pointer after 3-pointer despite a hand contesting the shot each time.

These off-the-dribble, off-balanced 3-pointers are shots the defense usually wants you to take.

Yet when they’re consistently buried, they’re demoralizing to the defense and TCU looked flustered.

ASU went 6-of-10 from three and 59.3% from the field in the first half, while the Frogs managed to just shoot 38.7% from the floor.

Despite this shooting discrepancy, Miles Jr. channeled his inner-James Harden, Arizona State legend, and forced his way to the line.

After a previous comment Miles Jr. made about his recent lack of free throw attempts, the Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year ensured he drove downhill and initiated enough contact so the referees could blow their whistle.

When he wasn’t parading his way to the free throw line, Miles Jr. was doing this.

Miles Jr. led all scorers with 26 points on a career-high 12-of-14 from the charity stripe, the most free throws made by a TCU player in an NCAA Tournament game.

Despite his best efforts, the Frogs trailed 44-37 at the half.

Second half, second chance

The second half got off to a rocky start as ASU jumped out to a 52-44 lead.

Like every other game this season, the Frogs continued to fight and willed themselves back into the game.

“The character of our guys showed in the second half, the commitment to one another, the response and intensity we brought defensively changed [the game],” said Dixon.

TCU started to pressure ASU into the same difficult looks that it had made throughout the first half, the only difference was the shots weren’t falling this time around.

O’Bannon Jr. continued to make crucial baskets that were momentum builders for TCU and momentum killers for ASU.

‘Mr. Postseason’ finished with 15 points and three 3-pointers.

The Sun Devils worked hard to maintain their lead, but the Frogs worked harder to erase their deficit.

The newfound defensive intensity caused the Sun Devils to shoot just 32.3% in the second half and 29% from beyond the arc.

Now trailing 67-64, Damion Baugh drained a huge 3-pointer that tied the ball game with 1:50 remaining.

The senior guard then immediately followed that up with two made free throws that gave TCU its first lead since the first half.

With a three point lead, 70-67 with 21 seconds left to go, Arizona State junior guard DJ Horne swished his own 3-pointer that once again tied the game.

The difference a year makes

“Sometimes you got to fight through adversity, sometimes you got to get better,” said sophomore forward JaKobe Coles.

This was not only in response to TCU’s late game rally, but also a testament to Coles’ hard work that enabled him to be on the court with the game on the line.

With 12.4 seconds remaining, the score was tied and TCU had possession. Magic was bound to happen.

As Miles Jr. dribbled at the top of the key, Coles set a screen that ASU defenders decided to double-team.

Miles Jr., who had it going all night, could’ve easily kept the ball and tried to make things happen on his own.

In a moment of triumph, he showed his true basketball character and trusted his teammates.

Miles Jr. quickly read the defense and passed it to Coles who slightly pump faked, throwing the defender off-balanced.

Coles then drove to the basket where he calmly swished a running floater under duress and over the outstretched arms of a defender.

The Sun Devils were left with 1.5 seconds on the clock but no remaining timeouts to advance the ball, resulting in a full-court heave that was off the mark.

Coles heroics won TCU the game and gave him a national spotlight, one that teammates, fans believed is rightly deserved.

After only averaging 2.7 points and 1.9 rebounds in 8.6 minutes per game last season, Coles worked tirelessly to force his way into Dixon’s rotation and gain his trust.

Tonight that trust paid dividends.

“Man its great, I’m so happy for him – we played two years on AAU together. This like my brother, and I recruited him last year but he didn’t have the role he wanted,” Miles Jr. said.

“This year he’s getting the minutes he wanted and he’s stepping up, in the biggest game of his life he made the game-winning shot, I can’t say how much I’m proud of him… he’s worked so hard.”

After a hard-fought comeback and victory, the Frogs celebrated in typical-TCU fashion.

The celebration will have to be short-lived as TCU will now face No. 9 third-seeded Gonzaga in the second round on Sunday at 8:40 p.m CT on TBS.

TCU is 1-1 against Gonzaga all-time and will attempt to win multiple games in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history.

“That’s the type of team we are, we welcome challenges, we like to set up to big games, every game from now on is a big game because we can go home after we lose, so we’re going to stay ready,” said Miles Jr.