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TCU entered Saturday’s game at Iowa State as the worst free-throw shooting team in the Big 12. The Frogs flipped that script.
Instead of struggling from the free-throw line, TCU went a perfect 18 of 18 and needed just about every one in its 76-72 victory over Iowa State at Hilton Coliseum in Ames.
It’s the first game the Frogs shot 100% from the line this season. And the first time for the Frogs since 2008 (15 of 15 on Jan. 30, 2008 vs. UNLV).
TCU coach Jamie Dixon joked with his team afterward on Saturday: “There’s some things we can work on, but right now I know we were 18 of 18 from the free-throw line and we hit them down the stretch. They were clutch free throws. Let’s get out of here and get ready for the next one.”
TCU led by as many as 14 points in the first half, but saw that lead dwindle away in the second half. Iowa State made three straight 3-pointers in just over a one-minute stretch, taking a 56-53 lead on a 3 by Tre Jackson with 10 minutes left.
The Frogs responded and sealed the game at the free-throw line in the final two minutes. Freshman guard Mike Miles knocked down all three of his free-throw attempts after being fouled on a 3-pointer with 1 minute, 35 seconds left, giving TCU a 70-66 lead.
After Iowa State pulled to within 70-68, Miles made a clutch layup to regain a two-possession lead, 72-68, with 23 seconds left. Frogs junior guard RJ Nembhard closed out the victory by making 4 of 4 free throws in the final 11 seconds.
Not too shabby considering TCU entered the game shooting just 66% from the line, the worst mark in the league. But Dixon feels his team is better than the numbers suggest as center Kevin Samuel’s well-documented struggles brings the average down.
“I have confidence in a lot of our guys,” Dixon said. “We have shot it better in conference. We had the right guys at the line tonight.”
Miles and Nembhard each finished with 19 points for TCU. Miles made five free throws, while Nembhard made eight. TCU also won the rebounding battle 33-28.
But Iowa State stayed within striking distance throughout, knocking down timely 3-pointers and shooting 49% from the field. Cyclones guard Jalen Coleman-Lands finished with a game-high 21 points, going 4 for 6 from deep.
“We’ve got to get better, too many 3s, rebounding was good but not great,” Dixon said. “Every game is going to be close, so we’ve got to practice that way.”
The victory snapped a three-game losing streak for TCU (12-10, 5-8 Big 12). The Frogs swept the season series with the Cyclones (2-18, 0-15) and have now won seven of the last eight meetings.
The Frogs, who were without reserve big man Eddie Lampkin (personal absence), had a scary moment in the first half when Samuel went down with an apparent back injury.
Samuel went to the bench for several minutes before returning to action. Dixon said Samuel is OK, but will have to play through some pain the rest of the year.
TCU closes the regular season with three games next week, starting with a road game at No. 18 Texas Tech on Tuesday. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. in Lubbock.
“This was a very big win for us,” Miles said. “We’ve got three games next week all against ranked opponents, so it was good to get this win and get us back on track.”