Sunday, March 1, 2015

TCU Horned Frogs 60 at Oklahoma Sooners 67 (NCAA Basketball, Big 12) - February 28, 2015

I chose this weekend to visit OKC because the Sooners had both baseball and basketball games while the Barons were also in town. The weather sent the baseball team to Las Vegas, but basketball is played inside so I figured there wouldn't be any cancellations. Actually, the bus company contracted to drive visiting TCU refused to do so because of the storm, and the team had to take the train, arriving late at night, but in plenty of time for the 1 p.m. tip.

The Sooners play at The Lloyd Noble Center, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. From the outside, it looks pretty dull, even when surrounded by snow.

Once you step inside, however, you will realize that it is one of the finest venues in college hoops, dedicated to the game and the Sooners. Look at the seating bowl below and see how it is perfectly set up for basketball as the seats all face center court.

Too many basketball venues double as a hockey arena and with a basketball court so much smaller than an ice rink, many of the seats are not looking at the court, especially in the corners. That is not the case here, as you can see below.

There is a concourse at the top of the seating bowl which is adorned with displays honouring the past greats of both the men's and women's programs. Wayman Tisdale is the big name here, he was the first collegiate athlete to be named as an AP All American. Take the time to walk around and read about all the past stars here. There are also 12 unique concession stands along the upper concourse, with the BBQ sandwich ($6.50) my personal recommendation.

There are three seating levels which are all shown in the picture below. Seats range from $30 to $10, and there is not a bad seat in the place. I splurged though, as I wanted to sit as close as possible for this one, but you will enjoy yourself regardless of your location. Note that Oklahoma State and Kansas games are more expensive.

Students sit in one end zone and are handed a sheet instructing them how to chant during the game. When visiting players are introduced, the students all read the newspaper, which they later rip up and toss in the air. The sheet also had a mildly humourous scouting report on TCU, for example, Karviar Shepherd "walks like a baby giraffe" while Trey Zeigler "only pays for things in change".

The weather and the less than enticing matchup (TCU was 4-11 in conference while OU was 10-5 and ranked 16th in the country) kept many fans away, with less than half of the 11,562 seats occupied. Still, the atmosphere was top notch and those fans in attendance made lots of noise. I'd love to come back for a game against Oklahoma State or Kansas, when the place must be a madhouse. Oklahoma is not a prime sports destination, but if you decide to go, make sure that Lloyd Noble Center is hosting a Sooners game when you visit.

The Game

I expected a dominant performance from Oklahoma, but TCU hung tough early and took a 25-24 lead when Ziegler (#32 below) hit a jump shot with seven minutes to go. From there, the Horned Frogs went on an 11-0 run as the Sooners missed shot after shot. Only some late free throws allowed them to enter the half down only 36-28, much to the consternation of the fans.

An upset was looming, but Buddy Hield (below) picked a good time to get hot, sinking a couple of threes with the second one tying the game at 48 midway through the second stanza.

Again TCU took a lead, but this time TaShawn Thomas, a transfer from Houston (#35 below with a block), took over. Two dunks, two free throws, and a layup from Thomas gave the Sooners a 60-56 advantage and although a Zeigler jumper brought the visitors within 2, they would get no closer as the rest of the game was a free throw shooting contest with OU emerging with a 67-60 victory.

The difference was really in the free throws as you can see below. Oklahoma committed only 11 fouls compared to 21 for TCU and the difference in foul shots was essentially the difference in the game. What was funny was how the fans jeered the refs, with most believing them to be part of a large conspiracy against their team. I felt the game was well officiated and TCU was simply overmatched and tired by the end of the game. Regardless, I really enjoyed my time here, it was my first Big 12 basketball game but hopefully not my last.


The game lasted around two hours, a surprisingly quick affair that allowed me to get out on the highway by 3:30 and make it to Arlington three hours later,  in plenty of time to attend the UT-Arlington vs UALR game that night. More on that in the next post.



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