It had been almost 20 years since TCU made its last NCAA Tournament appearance before Friday.
The Horned Frogs looked like they weren’t ready for the big stage in Detroit. They struggled against the array of zone defenses in a sputtering 57-52 loss to Syracuse Friday night.
A variety of zone defenses cooked up by Hall of Famer Jim Boeheim flummoxed the Horned Frogs all night. After averaging 81 points of the season, they were limited 29 points below that average.
They scored their fewest points of the season after their previous low for the season of 64 was scored in a Big 12 tournament loss against Kansas State and against Kansas.
TCU looked ill prepared at the start of the game, scoring 13 points in the first 13:03 of the game. But a brief flurry and an 8-0 run to finish the first half gave them a 28-27 halftime lead.
The Horned Frogs were held without a field goal for more than 9 minutes in the middle of the second half. They hit season-low totals of 3 3-pointers in the game and 17.6 percent of their threes in the game.
Syracuse improves to 22-13 with the win. TCU drops to 22-12, including three consecutive losses to finish the season.
3 who mattered
- Kenrich Williams: The Horned Frogs’ leading rebounder and second-leading scorer filled the stat sheet with 14 points and 8 rebounds, but scored only one basket in the final 14 minutes of the game.
- Marek Dolezaj: Provided some early pop when Syracuse’s offense needed it, finishing with a game-high 17 points. But he went scoreless for nearly 10 minutes at the end of his playing time and fouled out with 6:11 left.
- Oshae Brissett: After struggling most of the game, Brissett came up with a pair of layups during a 49-second span late in the game to spark Syracuse’s comeback. He finished with 13 points — albeit on 4-for-16 shooting — and 9 rebounds for the Orange.
The turning point
TCU went ice cold for more than 9 minutes late in the game. Bourama Sidibe gave the Orange the lead for good with a hoop with 11:18 left. TCU closed to 50-49 on a tip-in by Williams with 3:30 left, but Syracuse put the game away by scoring seven of the next eight points, capped by two foul shots by center Paschal Chukwu with 3 seconds left.
- Like most of Syracuse’s teams over recent years, the Orange looked offensively challenged for large periods of the game. But their defense wore the Horned Frogs down and was the difference down the stretch.
- An early highlight destined for the “One Shining Moment” video: skinny 6-9, 180 forward Dolezaj torched TCU in a variety of ways, including a one-legged hop after one of his 3-pointers.
- Even as Syracuse struggled to shoot 36.8 percent, they have done much worse. The Orange were lower than that mark eight times this season. Most amazingly they won two of the games.
The number: 52
The Horned Frogs scored only 52 points in the loss to Syracuse, matching their low scoring total in the two-season coaching tenure of Jamie Dixon. They matched their previous low of 52 points, scored against Baylor last season.
What’s next for TCU basketball
TCU finishes a history-making season with promise for the future. They lose Brodziansky and Williams, but everybody else will be back along with key recruits Kaden Archie, Kendric Davis and Russell Barlow coming aboard.
After Friday’s loss, the Horned Frogs also should have a lot of motivation to work on zone offense all summer after their struggles against the Orange.