By Jamie Plunkett
Frogs Today staff writer
It’s safe to say TCU did not enjoy their trip to Starkville, Miss., on Saturday.
Not only did the Frogs drop their game to Mississippi State 81-74, but leading scorer Mike Miles Jr. might miss some time.
Miles went down with a right knee injury at the 16:14 mark of the first half and did not return. Team officials told Frogs Today that Miles was diagnosed with a right knee hyperextension.
Coach Jamie Dixon said after the game that Miles will get an MRI when the team returns to Fort Worth to further evaluate the extent of his injury. Miles confirmed the MRI in a tweet.
Miles attempted to make a cut without the ball when he got tangled up with a defender and came down awkwardly on his right leg. He went down to the court for several minutes before being helped to the locker room. Miles eventually returned to the bench, keeping his leg propped up in a chair.
Meanwhile, Eddie Lampkin Jr. missed his second consecutive game while dealing with a high ankle sprain. The junior is TCU’s leading rebounder, averaging 6.8 boards per game. The Frogs were also without Rondel Walker, who was dealing with a non-COVID illness. Neither traveled with the team.
While the injuries could certainly be used as an excuse, the reality is that TCU still had multiple chances to win and simply didn’t.
TCU looked out of sorts from the jump. Mississippi State was able to take advantage of Lampkin’s absence, scoring in the paint early and often. By the time Miles suffered his injury, the Frogs trailed 8-3 and all four Bulldogs baskets had come in the paint.
From there, the Bulldogs and big man Tolu Smith worked their way out to a 23-11 lead at the 7:14 mark of the first half. Smith, who finished with a game-high 27 points and 13 rebounds, overwhelmed TCU’s interior defense consistently throughout the game.
Despite the early adversity, the Frogs began to find their sea legs as the first half came to a close, scoring five points in the final 36 seconds. Shahada Wells split two defenders and found his way to the rim for a layup in the final minute of the half, then deflected the ensuing inbounds pass.
Wells corralled the loose ball and found JaKobe Coles for another basket. A Damion Baugh free throw brought TCU to within six, 31-25, where the score sat at halftime.
In many ways the Frogs were lucky to trail by just six. TCU compounded the loss of Miles by shooting less than 35 percent from the floor, losing the rebounding battle 21-15, and turning the ball over seven times.
TCU clearly collected itself at the break, opening the second half on an 8-2 run to tie the game at 33. Five quick points from Emanuel Miller helped the Frogs close the gap, as they managed to get out in transition where they’ve been so lethal this season. From there, it was a back-and-forth affair.
Neither team would lead by more than four points the rest of the way, with eight ties and eleven lead changes over the last 17:27 of the game.
Baugh, Miller and Wells paced the Frogs for the bulk of the second half as the teams continued to trade baskets. While the Frogs played a much cleaner half, shooting 50 percent from the floor with just three turnovers, they consistently struggled to keep the Bulldogs out of the paint.
It was a stark reminder of the importance of Lampkin to TCU’s rotation. Despite the growth from Xavier Cork and Coles this season, neither present the same level of physical presence as Lampkin, and that, more than anything else, was what the Bulldogs used to their advantage.
All of Miller’s 13 points came in the second half, while Baugh added 10 to bring his total to 19. Coles contributed big baskets along the way as well, finishing with 12 points and a team-high eight rebounds in the losing effort.
The final seconds of regulation saw Mississippi State and TCU trade missed 3-pointers, as the game headed to overtime. Wells gave the Frogs a 68-66 lead on TCU’s first possession in the extra frame, but that was TCU’s last lead of the day. The Bulldogs used an 8-0 run, which included two 3-pointers from Shakeel Moore, to take a 74-68 lead and never look back.
The Frogs shot just 2-for-9 from the floor in overtime and were a step behind defensively.
TCU has a quick turnaround, with West Virginia coming to Schollmaier Arena on Tuesday night. The Frogs are currently 5-3 in Big 12 play, as they look to avenge their 74-65 loss to the Mountaineers earlier this season.
Jamie Plunkett, email@example.com