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February 27, 2013The TCU basketball team saw again Wednesday night what it has seen on many nights this season during its tasking Big 12 schedule.
The Horned Frogs (10-18 overall, 1-14 Big 12) weren't big enough, they weren't strong enough, they weren't fast enough and, as things like that tend to add up to, they just weren't good enough to beat Oklahoma State, falling to the Cowboys, 64-47.
If you weren't too sure on any of the above, TCU coach Trent Johnson and point guard Kyan Anderson were quick to remind you afterward.
"They're just big, stronger and faster," Anderson said. "We could've picked up a little more on defense. I wouldn't say that was the key factor tonight, but they did score a lot in the paint."
Le'Bryan Nash led the Cowboys (21-6, 11-4) with 28 points on 12-of-16 shooting. Nash also tied for a team-high six rebounds, as the Cowboys led the final 37 minutes of the game.
"He's bigger, he's stronger, he's quicker and he's got more of a skill-set than anybody we have," Johnson said of the 6-foot-8 Nash. "They do a good job and putting him in spots where he can score. But more importantly, they're such an unselfish team and their leader is a freshman in (Marcus) Smart who doesn't' worry about scoring. He just worries about making his teammates more involved."
Smart scored nine points on 3-of-10 shooting, but he added five assists and three steals.
And he controlled the pace of the game, patiently setting up Nash and others. Oklahoma State shot 55 percent from the field, including 62 percent in the first half as it went into halftime on a 12-1 run and a 38-24 lead.
"We didn't have an answer for Nash, but make no mistake about it, the key to that whole thing is what Smart does. He's special, he's really special," Johnson said. "As much as Nash is a bad matchup for us and a lot of people, the guy who dictates that tempo without scoring is Marcus Smart. No question."
Anderson led TCU with 15 points. Devonta Abron finished with 12 points and nine rebounds.
"That team is just strong, big and physical and it's from all positions," Anderson said. "That's what makes them tough. They're diverse from all positions."
But for as dominant as Oklahoma State was Wednesday night, and for as far apart the two teams are, talent-wise, TCU saw, as it also has on many nights this season, a glimpse into what it can become.
Smart and Nash are both area products. Smart starred last year at Flower Mound Marcus while Nash was a five-star at Dallas Lincoln in 2011. Phil Forte, who scored only two points against the Frogs but has contributed plenty as a freshman this year, was a teammate of Smart's at Marcus.
The Pokes' trio of Dallas-Fort Worth players exhibit the type of talent TCU is targeting: Skilled, ready to play as freshmen and local.
The Frogs have gotten that already in Karviar Shepherd, a center from Dallas, and Brandon Parrish, a shooting guard at Arlington Seguin. Both players have already signed with TCU, and both were receiving heavy interest from several big-time programs.
"Karviar Shepherd, everybody in the country wanted him," Johnson said. "Brandon Parrish, everybody in this league wanted him, along with some national schools. He's staying home."
Johnson has found an early fix, but it might not be a cure-all. Not yet, at least.
That was evident Wednesday night when Smart, as highly-recruited as anyone out of high school, was asked what TCU would have to do to keep more local recruits from leaving.
Smart said, as with any school, it starts with the fan base.
"No kid wants to go to a school where the fans don't come out and support," he said. "They don't want to play in a dull gym. They want it to be exciting."
But fans don't pop up out of nowhere, especially at a private school and definitely not for a program that has been mediocre for years and currently sits last in the Big 12, having won just once since the first of the year.
That, though, perhaps more than anything, is a testament as to what Johnson has been able to do in just a short time, convincing two top recruits (Johnson and Shepherd) to stay closer to home, even if that meant not playing for a storied program.
Or maybe it took little convincing at all. Maybe Johnson just found the right kids, ones with the right blend of talent and hunger.
"They're showing great courage," Johnson said of his three signees, Michael Williams, a point guard out of San Antonio being the third. "And it takes a competitive kid to sit here locally and see what's going on with this team and see how some of those other guys they're competing with are leaving. It takes a competitive kid with a lot of courage, and I hope our fans understand that."
Johnson made one point clear Wednesday night: His 2013 local talent-rich signing class won't be his last. If it is, well, then everything he's working toward - the re-building, the making of a competitive Big 12 program - won't happen.
He has no other option.
"If there is an 'if' then guess what? Somebody else needs to come in here and do this," Johnson said. "Trust me when I tell you it's going to get done. I'm not going to sit through a lot of these years. Trust me."
TCU plays at Texas Tech on Saturday. Tipoff is scheduled for 3 p.m.