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January 16, 2013

Full Court Focus: Previewing TCU vs. Kansas State

TCU is back home tonight against No. 16 Kansas State. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. The game can be seen on ESPNU.

Here's your rundown of items to get you prepped for tonight's action.

Last Time Out

Well, the Frogs made a game of it, or at least as much of a game as you could expect on the road against one of the top teams in the Big 12 in Baylor.

TCU actually led at halftime, doing about the only thing it could have done to combat the Bears by slowing the pace of the game to a crawl and heading into the locker room up 22-21.

But the Frogs did what the Frogs have done and went cold in the second half, shooting 8-of-25 from the field.

Garlon Green missed all five shots he took, finishing with zero points. Freshman Charles Hill Jr., making his first start, led TCU with 12 points and eight rebounds.

Baylor's Cory Jefferson had a team-high 15 points. Isaiah Austin scored 11 and grabbed eight rebounds for the Bears, who won easily 51-40 before promptly losing Monday night at Kansas, 61-44, becoming the third Big 12 team this season to beat TCU then follow up with a loss of nine points or more.

Taking a Look at the Wildcats

Kansas State (13-2, 2-0) has done most the right things so far, losing only to No. 4 Michigan (71-57) and No. 14 Gonzaga (68-52). While those games appeared to get out of hand, the Wildcats have a pair of very quality wins, 67-61 over No. 8 Florida and 73-67 over No. 22 Oklahoma State. Led by guard Rodney McGruder (14.9 ppg, 5.5 ppg), KSU also beat West Virginia 65-64 on Monday.

Three Things

1.Maybe, just maybe, work the ball inside Devonta Abron and Adrick McKinney aren't know for their offensive game, but both have been able to convert inside on a somewhat regular basis. McKinney was off Saturday, shooting 1-of-7, but he's improved remarkably since last season, and Abron in double-digits (16 vs. TTU, 10 vs. Baylor) two of the past three games. Doesn't sound like much, but Abron has been able to convert when working in the post. With limited offensive personnel, there's only so much you can do from a distribution standpoint, but finding a way to get Abron the ball to where he can use his physical stature for offensive production (and not just defensive presence) would help.

2.McGruder's the man The senior is the only Wildcat averaging more than 10 points a game, and he's had back-to-back impressive outings - 28 against OSU and 17 at WVU. KSU's next-leading scorer, Angel Rodriguez, puts in 9.5 points a game. Limit McGruder (or, as Abron might say, "cut off the head), and you might be able to limit the Wildcats' offense.

3. Does Hill get the start again? Before Saturday, Hill hadn't really been ready to play in a starting role. But against Baylor, he looked ready enough, leading the team in scoring. Does he get the start tonight, or was it just a one-time experiment? If anything, Hill adds another perimeter presence, and he's 4-of-8 this year from three-point range. Small sample size, plenty of promise, especially for a guy who's obviously still adjusting to the college game.

Number Watch

As usual, a couple notable numbers courtesy of the TCU media relations department…

--Don't think Trent Johnson is making a difference? How about this: Sixteen games into the season (and three into Big 12 play), TCU still leads the conference in scoring defense, giving up 55.3 points a game. Sure, there's not much scoring going on and the goal is get more in than you keep out, but Johnson has laid the foundation of defense he talked so much about during the offseason. The points will come with the players, and they're just not there yet. But they will be.

--Hill has played 62 minutes the past two games, the same amount of minutes he totaled during the Frogs' first 14 games. Maybe there's a trend here. Watch for the freshman.

The Bottom Line

Kansas State is what TCU could become. Maybe not this year, but possibly next or the year after. The Wildcats do the little things right. They're not overly talented, they're not a team filled with scorers, they're not a team filled with superstars. But they're well-coached and they play defense.

The Frogs are well-coached and they play defense. They're not a team filled with scorers and they don't have any superstars.

Now, TCU probably won't beat Kansas State, because Kansas State is pretty dang good. Bruce Weber's team might contend for a league title, and tonight's game will probably just be a tune-up before a pair of huge home games - Oklahoma on Saturday and Kansas on Tuesday.

But, as with most games the Frogs will play the rest of the year, tonight will be a learning experience, another chance to improve, another opportunity to grow.

And that's about all you can expect right now.



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