No. 22 TCU men’s basketball’s season concludes with second round loss to No. 9 Gonzaga



TCU guard Mike Miles Jr., left, loses control of the ball as Gonzaga guard Hunter Sallis, center, and forward Anton Watson defend in the second half of a second-round college basketball game in the men’s NCAA Tournament Sunday, March 19, 2023, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

By Sederick Oliver, Executive Editor, Image Magazine

A bittersweet end to a season of firsts.

No. 22 and six-seeded TCU men’s basketball (22-13, 9-9) lost a heartbreaker to No. 9 and third-seeded Gonzaga, 84-81, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Despite being the underdog against a Gonzaga team that has now made the Sweet 16 for eight straight years, the Frogs played until the very end and left it all out on the court.

Lack of size costs Frogs

The Frogs’ heart and hustle have been two of the team’s defining traits throughout the season.

Their defensive intensity compensates for their jump-shooting woes and has carried them to victory many times despite a lack of offensive versatility or variance in shot-making.

With the departure of Eddie Lampkin Jr., no other Horned Frog stands over 6 foot 9 inches aside from junior center Souleymane Doumbia, who doesn’t receive regular rotational minutes. 

The Frogs were able to advance past Arizona State University in the first round despite this deficiency, but the 30-5 Bulldogs were a different story.

Gonzaga senior forward big man Drew Timme, who is the second-leading scorer in the West Coast Conference, provided more than TCU could handle.

All night long TCU had trouble containing Timme’s fluid combination of size, footwork and touch all at 6 foot 10 inches.

However, due to the Bulldogs’ shooters, TCU was never able to double-team Timme, which he took full advantage of with a game-high 28 points on 57% shooting. His ability to get inside and draw contact using an array of spin moves, pump fakes and up-and-unders forced TCU to switch out defenders in hopes of finding answers.

Despite only playing four minutes, Doumbia picked up three fouls, with two being in two straight possessions.

Junior guard Micah Peavy, who spent his fair share of time on Timme, fouled out. When head coach Jamie Dixon elects to ‘go small,’ sophomore forward JaKobe Coles received a lot of minutes at the center position, and he also fouled out.

Even with all of Timme’s dominance, for the better part of the first half, the Frogs were able to neutralize everyone else.

The Frogs rotated quickly and frantically closed out, ensuring that a hand was up on every single Gonzaga 3-point attempt.

This defensive strategy showed its effectiveness and led to Gonzaga shooting 36% from the floor and 2-of-14 from beyond the arc.

After a last-second 3-pointer from senior guard Damion Baugh, TCU went into halftime up 38-33. The team’s confidence was through the roof as they were successfully out-playing one of the best teams in the nation.

Although the Frogs made the occasional 3-pointer (2-of-4), they were relentless with their drives and cuts to the baskets.

It wasn’t quite the nation-leading fast break offense that defined the team’s game plan for the season, but TCU ran the floor every chance it could. They were able to constantly catch Gonzaga off-balanced or out of position with quick, precise cutting to the basket.

Playing out of character

After playing an inspired half of basketball in hopes of reaching their first Sweet 16 appearance in program history, the Frogs had a nightmarish start to the second half.

To make matters worse, the Bulldogs came into the second half with a renewed sense of focus.

The shots were now falling, and the momentum was shifting.

Fans of the Bulldogs inside Ball Arena were loud and proud.

They could sense the flow of the game changing in their team’s favor.

But TCU fans had plenty to cheer for as well as junior guard Mike Miles Jr. put on a shotmaking clinic.

Miles Jr. was firing on all cylinders as he refused to relinquish the lead.

Despite his 24 points on 13 shots, Gonzaga withstood Miles Jr.’s onslaught to take the lead.

The Bulldogs were even able to stretch their lead out to eight, 63-55 with 8:40 remaining while TCU grasped for answers on either end of the court.

Due to Gonzaga’s second half 3-point resurgence, 6-of-11, the Frogs subsequently tried to counter with threes of their own.

As Dixon has notoriously pointed out in the past, TCU struggles with outside shooting, which led to him transforming the offense to get out in transition and get easy looks.

This proved to be the case as the Frogs strayed away from what ‘brought them to the dance.’

In the second half alone, TCU shot 7-of-21 from 3-point land after only attempting four during the first period.

In the end, TCU couldn’t overcome the same flaws that have plagued the team all year long.

The abysmal perimeter shooting, Gonzaga winning the rebounding battle, 31-26, and nine missed free throws, 25-16, all cost the Frogs a trip to the next round.

In addition to 24 from Miles Jr., senior guard Damion Baugh added 15 points on 75% shooting from 3-point land, with eight boards, and senior forward Emanuel Miller rounded out the double-figure scorers with 14.

Always a Horned Frog

“We’re all hurt, we all love this school, we all want to be here, we all know how special this place is,” said Miles Jr.

With heavy hearts, Miller, Miles Jr. and Dixon expressed how special the group was and the school in its entirety.

“Just so proud of their effort tonight, their effort all season long, all summer long, all fall – it was a great group, unbelievable closeness,” said Dixon. “They worked hard, played hard, loved being around each other. I loved both around them, loved coaching them – just proud of what they’ve done, I can’t thank them enough.”

“Since I stepped foot in Fort Worth, since I stepped foot on campus, I’ve received nothing but love. TCU is an unbelievable school not only for academics but also within athletics, I think TCU has made great strides into becoming the school we are today,” said Miller. He continued, “No matter what I do later on in life, no matter what’s going on in my life, I know I’m always going to have the support from the students, my teammates, and the whole staff, not a lot of people in my position can say that, our culture speaks for itself.”

Miles Jr., who possibly played his last game as a Horned Frog as he chooses to declare for the 2023 NBA Draft, had this to say: “The decision I’ll make, I’ll make it, I don’t really know what it’s going to be right now, but regardless of what I’ll make, I’ll always be a Horned Frog.”

The outcome wasn’t desired, but the effort in defeat was admirable.

A fitting end to a season of firsts.