In the midst of six losses in the last nine games and a three-game losing streak that featured the worth Big 12 loss in school history, the Texas Longhorns are once again in desperate need of a victory on Tuesday in Fort Worth against the TCU Horned Frogs.
The NCAA Tournament odds for head coach Shaka Smart’s team are once again under two percent, according to barttorvik.com, but there are six remaining games against the other bottom teams in the Big 12, a group that includes the Horned Frogs.
TCU is struggling, too, despite sitting at 4-2 in conference play, its best start since joining the Big 12 — the Frogs have lost three of the last four games, but the three losses came on the road and the only win came at home in impressive fashion against Texas Tech. In fact, head coach Jamie Dixon’s team won that game thanks to an offensive explosion by senior guard Desmond Bane, who scored 27 points on only 15 shots by hitting 6-of-8 attempts from beyond the arc.
After declaring for the NBA Draft and going through the pre-draft process, Bane opted to return to school. The decision has paid off in terms of pure productivity, as Bane is averaging 16.7 points per game, good for second in the conference behind Kansas guard Devon Dotson. With Bane now using more possessions, his offensive rating has declined slightly, but with the departure of point guard Alex Robinson after last season, Bane has emerged as a playmaker for his teammates, boosting his assist rate more than eight percentage points this season.
So Bane is now more than just a shooter, though he’s maintained that part of his game — he’s currently hitting 44.1 percent of his attempts from three-point range to lead the conference. And that’s certainly not an anomaly, as Bane shot better than that as a sophomore and turned in his career-best performance last March in Austin against the Longhorns by scoring 34 points, also on 6-of-8 shooting from three.
Two sophomores have emerged to complement Bane — center Kevin Samuel and guard RJ Nembhard. Samuel is averaging 11.2 points and 9.0 rebounds per game as an efficient scorer who can dominate the offensive and defensive glass while blocking shots at a high rate. In a loss to Arkansas on Saturday, Samuel scored 24 points on 9-of-12 shooting and had 18 rebounds.
Nembhard has cooled off a bit after a strong start and doesn’t shoot well from beyond the arc, but is still averaging 12.2 points per game. He’s also one of three players on the team averaging more than three assists per game.
Overall, TCU’s offense is buoyed by strong three-point shooting by the Horned Frogs and a willingness to share the basketball. Like Texas, TCU is reliant on the three and ranks No. 10 nationally by assisting on 62.1 percent of its made field goals, winning the last 20 games when recording 20 or more assists. The Horned Frogs also hit the offensive glass hard, ranking No. 43 nationally in offensive rebounding rate at 33.2 percent.
On defense, TCU ranks fifth during conference play in adjusted efficiency, but sits at No. 54 nationally by creating steals and blocked shots. Three-point defense is a weakness, however, as the Horned Frogs are allowing opponents to shoot 34.3 percent from deep.
Texas will be without sophomores Kamaka Hepa (ankle) and Gerald Liddell (back), as neither player currently has a timetable for a return.
Wednesday’s contest against the Horned Frogs is the second and final game for the Longhorns on ESPN+. The game tips off at 7 p.m. Central and Texas fans can sign up for the service here for $4.99 per month or $49.99 per year. The subscription can be canceled at any time.
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