The TCU Horned Frogs beat the Arizona State Sun Devils, 72-70, in the first round of the 2023 NCAA men’s basketball tournament in Denver, Colo. Here are three thoughts on the game.
TCU (22-12) won a first-round NCAA Tournament game for the second straight season.
Arizona State (23-13) saw its season end after winning its First Four game earlier this week.
How TCU Won
By riding the wave and trusting in Mike Miles Jr. The Horned Frogs were scorching early, making six of their first seven shots to take a big lead on the Sun Devils. But as good as TCU was in the first five minutes, Arizona State roared back, ended up shooting nearly 60 percent in the first half and took the lead.
It got worse. Four minutes into the second half ASU was up 11 and TCU’s defense was so horrid on one possession that it basically allowed an unmolested layup and coach Jamie Dixon took a time out.
Whatever happened in that huddle, it helped. Gradually, but it helped. TCU eventually tied it at 54 with 9:10 left, but ASU pulled away with five straight points.
Guard Damion Baugh got a shooter’s roll 3-pointer to tie the game at 67-all. Then Baugh gave TCU its first lead since about the four-minute mark of the first half with two free throws.
Miles missed a chance to ice the game with 24 seconds left by missing a free throw. He made the second but Arizona State came back and tied the game with 18 seconds left on DJ Horne’s 3-pointer.
TCU took a time out and it was Ja’Kobe Coles — not Miles — who hit the game-winner, a six-foot floater with about three seconds left — to lift TCU to the victory.
Coles closed the deal and had 11 points off the bench, but Miles carried them. He had 26 points and he did it after re-aggravating his hyperextended knee in the first half on a thunderous fast-break dunk. It was unclear if he would return to start the second half but he did.
The Miles did what he does best — drive to the basket, draw fouls and make free throws. He went 12-of-14 and most of those were in the second half.
Chuck O’Bannon had 15 points and Baugh had 11 points. TCU won despite shooting just 35.5 percent from the floor. What helped was that TCU only committed five turnovers.
How Arizona State Lost
Look at the numbers and it’s hard to tell. The Sun Devils shot 48 percent from the floor and 47 percent from the 3-point line. ASU held its own on the glass with TCU (38-35) and blocked seven TCU shots.
Yes, the 13 turnovers hurt, and the Horned Frogs turned those into sizeable points in the second half. But, for a good portion of this game Arizona State outplayed TCU.
Horne — who tied the game for Arizona in the final seconds — led the way with 17 points. Warren Washington had 11 points and eight rebounds while Desmond Cambridge Jr. had 10 points.
If you’re looking for the pain point, it was probably opportunities at the free-throw line. Miles made as many free throws as Arizona State, and the Horned Frogs made 20 to Arizona State’s 12.
That Last Play
Remember last year against Arizona in the second round of the NCAA Tournament? Miles had a chance to win the game with the ball dribbling with a defender guarding him and he slipped (or was fouled, depending on your point of view)?
He told CBS after the game that he “learned from last year.”
This time, Miles had the ball in his hands as expected. Coles was at the top of the key to set a screen. Miles accepted the screen and the double team that came with it. Then he passed to Coles.
Turns out that was the plan, if Miles didn’t have a lane to drive, which he didn’t.
“I knew they were going to double Mike and I was the second option,” Coles said. “My shot had been a little flat today so I got it up in the air.”
Coles did, and the Horned Frogs moved on to face Gonzaga on Sunday.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard