No. 22 TCU falls behind early, never fully recovers in 70-59 loss at No. 19 Iowa State

Iowa State University Cyclones forward Aljaž Kunc (5) takes a three-point shot over TCU Horned Frogs forward Xavier Cork (12) during the first quarter at Hilton Coliseum on Monday, Feb. 13, 2023, in Ames, Iowa. Texas And Iowa State Ncaa Women Basketball

No. 22 TCU falls behind early, never fully recovers in 70-59 loss at No. 19 Iowa State

The 22nd-ranked TCU Horned Frogs fell 70-59 on the road at No. 19 Iowa State Tuesday night at Hilton Coliseum. TCU (17-9, 6-7 Big 12) has now lost four in a row and is under .500 in conference play for the first time this season. 

The Horned Frogs trailed by as many as 21 points early in the second half, and never fully recovered despite pulling within single digits in the game’s final few minutes. Aljaz Kunc shot the lights out for the Cyclones (17-8, 8-5 Big 12), leading the way with 22 points while making five of his eight 3-point attempts. 

TCU finished the night an abysmal 6-for-18 at the free throw line, turned the basketball over 14 times, and were out-rebounded 31-28. Shahada Wells led the Frogs with 15 points while Micah Peavy added 13. 

Both teams entered Wednesday night’s game in desperate need of a win to stay relevant in the Big 12 standings, as Iowa State entered having lost four of five while TCU looked for its first win since Jan. 31. Star Horned Frogs guard Mike Miles Jr. was unavailable once again, missing his fifth straight game after injuring his knee versus Mississippi State on Jan. 28. 

For TCU, Wednesday night also represented a golden opportunity for revenge after Iowa State’s win in Fort Worth on Jan. 7, 69-67 on Gabe Kalscheur’s game winning triple. Instead, TCU was knocked back early and couldn’t punch back in time. 

Wednesday night got off to a nightmarish start for the Horned Frogs. Iowa State forged ahead 10-0 with ferocious defense and opportunistic offense, keeping TCU off the scoreboard for the game’s first three and a half minutes. Shahada Wells’ floater eventually got the Frogs onto the scoreboard, but Iowa State’s lead was 13-2 at the first media timeout. 

After TCU’s first bucket, it wasn’t until three minutes later that Damion Baugh made one of two free throws to give the Horned Frogs a third point. TCU’s second field goal of the game did not come until the 12-minute mark of the first half, a Damion Baugh 3-pointer that made it 15-6 Cyclones. 

To the Horned Frogs’ credit, they worked their way back into the game with stout defense – and after a 10-0 run, Iowa State’s lead was just 15-12 when head coach T.J. Otzelberger called a timeout halfway through the first half. TCU would hold Iowa State scoreless for more than five minutes before the Cyclones scored again with less than nine minutes before halftime. 

The back-and-forth runs continued as the first half went along, next with Iowa State rattling off eight consecutive points to re-establish a nine-point lead. Shahada Wells eventually stopped the bleeding with a layup, but Aljaz Kunc’s third 3-pointer of the night and a dunk in transition by Jaren Holmes extended the Cyclones’ lead to 28-16 and forced Jamie Dixon to call timeout with 5:50 to go. 

TCU would trim the deficit back to seven, but could not pull any closer in the final moments. After Aljaz Kunc’s fourth made 3-pointer of the half for Iowa State, TCU’s deficit was 11 at the break. Kunc’s 12 points led the Cyclones at the half, and Iowa State led 35-24. The Horned Frogs made just 2 of 10 free throw attempts before halftime, were out-rebounded 15-13, and never led. Micah Peavy led the Frogs with seven points at the half. 

The Horned Frogs started the second half in familiarly disastrous fashion, as Xavier Cork missed two free throws to make them 2-for-12 on the night. Less than a minute later, Iowa State extended its game-high lead to 39-24 on Tamin Lipsey’s layup.

Moments later, a controversial flagrant foul call on TCU guard Emmanuel Miller during a 3-point attempt by Aljaz Kunc sent Kunc to the free throw line for four shots. Kunc would make three of them, but Iowa State retained the basketball – and after Jaren Holmes’ drilled a 3-pointer with the extra possession, the Cyclones’ lead ballooned to 21. 

TCU finally responded with another run of its own, a 10-0 streak over more than five minutes of game clock that trimmed the deficit to 11. The Horned Frogs would eventually pull within single digits with just over 10 minutes to play when Shahada Wells’ first 3-pointer of the night made it 52-43. 

Iowa State re-extended its lead to 16 before long, but the Horned Frogs kept fighting. With just under 4 minutes to go, Shahada Wells’ layup trimmed the Cyclones’ lead to 64-53. 

Unfortunately for TCU, its late surge was never enough to threaten the Cyclones in the final minutes. The Frogs had a chance to narrow the gap to eight with just under two minutes to play, but yet another missed free throw by Xavier Cork encapsulated the night as a whole for Jamie Dixon’s team. 

The 70-59 win completes a season sweep of the Horned Frogs for Iowa State, and leaves TCU wondering how differently things could have looked with better free throw shooting. If there is any silver lining for the frustrated Horned Frogs, it is that Mike Miles Jr. is expected to return for Saturday’s game. In his absence, the Frogs went just 1-4. 

TCU will host Oklahoma State at 1 p.m. Saturday afternoon, its first of two consecutive home games before heading back on the road to Lubbock.

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