TCU comes up just short, falls 84-81 to Gonzaga in Round of 32

Mar 19, 2023; Denver, CO, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Drew Timme (2) shoots against TCU Horned Frogs forward JaKobe Coles (21) in the first half at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Michael Ciaglo-USA TODAY Sports

TCU comes up just short, falls 84-81 to Gonzaga in Round of 32

No. 3-Seed Gonzaga 84, No. 6-Seed TCU 81 

Sixth-seeded TCU saw its NCAA Tournament run end in an 84-81 loss to No. 3-seed Gonzaga on Sunday night in Denver. The Horned Frogs led by as many as 10 in the first half, but were overtaken by the Bulldogs in the second half despite the efforts of future pro Mike Miles Jr., who finished with 24 points.

TCU narrowly escaped a scare from Arizona State in the Round of 64 but could not overcome Gonzaga on Sunday. The Horned Frogs entered Sunday night’s Round of 32 game looking for their first-ever trip to the Sweet 16. Jamie Dixon, similarly, had never beaten a team seeded No. 3 or higher in his coaching career. Heading into next season, those goals remain at the forefront of the Horned Frogs’ minds.

Drew Timme led Gonzaga with a dominant 28-point performance, making 12-of-21 shots along the way. Both teams made exactly 30-of-67 shots, finishing 44.8% from the field – but it was Gonzaga who made the plays when they were needed.

TCU kept pace with the Zags in the early going, jumping out to an early 9-6 lead at the game’s first media timeout with 15:16 remaining in the first half. The Horned Frogs made six of their first 11 shots and extended their lead to 15-9 with 12:39 before halftime. Gonzaga, the highest-scoring offense in the country during the regular season, made just one of its first nine 3-pointers. 

Souleymane Doumbia, who played fewer than three minutes in each of the Horned Frogs’ last three games, made an immediate impact in the first half with a dunk that put TCU ahead 20-13 with 10 minutes until the break.

The first half came to a halt with eight minutes left in the half when sophomore Gonzaga guard Nolan Hickman went down with a painful-looking head injury. Hickman, who was removed from the game and tended to by medical staff, took an elbow from Emanuel Miller that sent him to the floor in a heap.

The Horned Frogs’ lead reached double digits for the first time at 25-15 after a pair of Mike Miles Jr. free throws with 7:25 left in the first half. Drew Timme scored the next two buckets for Gonzaga, keeping his team in the game as he arrived at 10 points in the first half individually.

As a few shots started to fall for the Bulldogs, TCU’s lead became smaller. Gonzaga pulled to within 31-26 with 4:50 left in the half after Julian Strawther’s 3-pointer and Rasir Bolton’s jumper. TCU seemed to catch a break when Drew Timme’s second foul forced him out of the game with three minutes until halftime, but Gonzaga narrowed its deficit to 33-31 with 2:07 left on a 3-point-play by Anton Watson.

Foul trouble quickly became an issue for TCU before halftime as well. Forwards Xavier Cork, Emanuel Miller, and Chuck O’Bannon Jr. all committed at least two fouls, with O’Bannon picking up his third with 70 seconds left before halftime. Damion Baugh connected on a 3-pointer for his first points of the half before the buzzer, and the Horned Frogs led 38-33 at the break.

Stars Mike Miles Jr. (TCU) and Drew Timme (Gonzaga) led their teams with 11 and 10 points, respectively, but Gonzaga was undone by six missed free throws and shooting just 2-of-14 from beyond the arc in the opening half.

The Bulldogs’ shooting continued to improve in the first minutes of the second half, as back-to-back 3-pointers by Rasir Bolton pushed Gonzaga ahead 46-45. Jamie Dixon called a frustrated timeout, as the pro-Gonzaga crowd in Denver increased its volume.

TCU battled back to a lead at the 12-minute mark, largely because of dominant play by Mike Miles Jr. Through the first eight minutes of the half, Miles scored 10 points, giving him a total of 20 and helping the Horned Frogs back to a 55-50 advantage.

The back-and-forth runs continued, next with a 13-0 spurt by the Bulldogs to give Mark Few’s team a game-high 8-point advantage. Drew Timme, who drilled a triple along the way, matched Mike Miles Jr. at 20 points with still 8:39 to go.

TCU battled back to within four, trailing 68-64 heading into the game’s final four minutes. Each team followed with yet another run, as Gonzaga pushed its lead to nine before a 6-0 TCU spurt made it 73-70. 

After a pair of empty possessions by the Horned Frogs allowed the Bulldogs to re-extend their lead 77-70, but JaKobe Coles kept the Frogs in contention with a 3-pointer at the 0:46 mark. Unfortunately for TCU, it would get no closer in the final seconds, despite repeated free throw misses by Gonzaga. The Horned Frogs missed three consecutive 3-pointers in the final minute, and the Bulldogs steadily increased their lead to 80-73. 

Damion Baugh hit a 3-pointer with less than 10 seconds remaining, but it was not enough as Gonzaga came away with the 84-81 victory. With a 3-pointer at the buzzer by Damion Baugh, TCU covered the 4.5-point spread.

Gonzaga will take on UCLA in the Sweet 16 next Friday in Las Vegas.

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