March 7, 2005
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Setting the Scene
For the second consecutive year, the TCU Horned Frogs (18-12, 8-8 C-USA) and Marquette Golden Eagles (19-10, 7-9) meet in the first round of the Conference USA Tournament. Last year, the Golden Eagles were the eighth seed and TCU was the No. 9, while this season the schools have flip-flopped positions. TCU has won three straight games against Marquette, including a 63-62 decision in Fort Worth exactly one month ago. TCU is attempting to reach a postseason tournament for the first time since the crew advanced to the NIT in 1999. The Horned Frogs are just 4-9 away from home this season, but 1-0 on neutral courts.
TCU owns a slim 3-2 advantage in the all-time series after the Horned Frogs edged the Golden Eagles 63-62 on Feb. 9 in Fort Worth. Last year, TCU upset the NIT-bound Eagles 85-79 on Feb. 3 in Milwaukee, then ousted Marquette from the Conference USA Tournament by a 64-62 count on Mar. 10 in Cincinnati. It was the first league tournament victory for the Horned Frogs since 2000. In all, the Frogs have won three straight games in the series, but by just a total of nine points. The two schools had not met prior to becoming C-USA league partners in 2002. Marquette won each of the first two meetings, one in Milwaukee and one in Fort Worth, by 11 points apiece.
TCU Individuals vs. Marquette
Corey Santee has averaged 12.2 points, 5.0 assists and 2.4 rebounds per game in five meetings against the Golden Eagles. Santee was the hero in both of TCU's wins in 2004, scoring a total of six points in the final 30 seconds at Marquette, and the final four in the last minute in the conference tournament. Aaron Curtis scored a career-high 15 points at Marquette in TCU's upset victory last year and has averaged 9.7 points over three games. Marcus Shropshire has posted 16.0 points per game in three outings on 13-of-30 (.433) shooting from 3-point range. Marcus Sloan has averaged 4.5 points and 5.0 rebounds in his last two outings versus the Eagles, while Femi Ibikunle has averaged 2.0 points and 4.7 rebounds in three games. Nile Murry tossed in 15 points in his first career try this past February.
The Most Recent Meeting vs. Marquette
Marcus Shropshire buried a 3-pointer with eight seconds remaining to give the Horned Frogs a thrilling 63-62 victory over the Marquette Golden Eagles on Feb. 9. TCU forced a turnover by Dameon Mason before Marquette could attempt a game-winning shot. It was the second straight meeting between the two teams that went down to the wire and resulted in a game-winning shot by TCU in the final 10 seconds. Shropshire led the Frogs with 17 points, and was joined in double figures by Nile Murry (15) and Corey Santee (12). Marquette outrebounded TCU by a 34-23 count, but the Frogs forced 19 MU turnovers.
Marq Those Two Down
TCU picked up arguably its biggest road victory of the Neil Dougherty era and one of the best in recent memory on Feb. 3, 2004 with an 85-79 win over Marquette. Marquette owned a 10-1 home record at the time and had won 41 of their last 43 in the Bradley Center over the last three years prior to the Frogs' win. Before TCU, the only teams to leave Milwaukee with a `W' in the last three years were then-No. 2 Louisville (73-70) on Feb. 15, 2003 and then-seventh-rated Cincinnati (85-73) on Jan. 14, 2004. Then in the Conference USA Tournament, the Horned Frogs earned the program's 1000th victory with a 64-62 triumph after Corey Santee sanka high-arcing floater with 8.1 seconds remaining. It was the Frogs' first conference tournament win since 2000, when the school was in the Western Athletic Conference.
Thinkin' `Bout Postseason
TCU is looking to make its first postseason tournament appearance since the 1998-99 season, which was capped off by a showing in the 1999 NIT. That year, the Frogs finished the campaign with a 21-11 record and reached the third round of the NIT after victories over Kansas State and Nebraska. TCU was upended by Oregon just one game prior to reaching the NIT semifinals in New York City. TCU's lone trip to the NCAA Tournament over the past 18 seasons came in 1998.
Planting the Seed
This is the highest seed that TCU has earned in the Conference USA Tournament since the school joined the league in 2002. TCU's previous best was a No. 9 achieved last year. Prior to that, the Horned Frogs were the No. 10 seed in 2002.
TCU's Conference USA Tournament History
TCU has played in just two Conference USA Tournaments previously, as the team did not qualify for the 2003 postseason tournament. In 2002, the 10th-seeded Horned Frogs suffered a 110-86 defeat in the opening round to seventh-seeded Louisville. Last year, No. 9 TCU defeated No. 8 Marquette by a 64-62 count in the first round of the tournament for the school's first league tourney win since 2000. In the quarterfinals, TCU was downed by DePaul, who reached the C-USA championship game, by an 89-64 result. The final score was not indicative of the game, which was an eight-point contest with 7:21 to play before a 21-5 DePaul run to end the game.
TCU's All-Time Conference Tournament History
Since conference tournament play began for the Southwest Conference in 1976, TCU owns an all-time postseason tourney record of 22-33 (.407). TCU was 16-25 in the SWC, went 5-5 in the Western Athletic Conference and is 1-2 in Conference USA action. Prior to last year's triumph over Marquette, TCU's previous postseason win came in 2000, when the Horned Frogs defeated WAC foe San Jose State 84-71 on Mar. 9 in Fresno, Calif. TCU has never won a conference tournament title and has played in the championship game just twice. The last time TCU advanced to the final game of a league tournament was in 1997 when the Horned Frogs suffered an 89-68 loss to Utah on Mar. 8, 1997, in Las Vegas, Nev.
Delivering in FedExForum
TCU has played just one game in Memphis' FedExForum, but had a successful outcome as the Horned Frogs upset the Memphis Tigers, 61-59, on Jan. 15. With the game tied at 58 with 5.1 seconds left, TCU's Corey Santee received an inbounds pass, dribbled it down court and hit a running 3-pointer with 0.2 seconds remaining to lift TCU. The Horned Frog bench received a technical foul for leaving the bench area and celebrating prematurely. Memphis hit 1 of 2 free throws, but Memphis couldn't get a shot off in the final 0.2 seconds. TCU, which had never beaten Memphis in nine previous meetings, fell behind 5-0 before going on a 17-5 run to take control of the game until the closing minutes. The Horned Frogs persevered despite shooting 33.3 percent and squandering a 12-point second-half lead.
Looking to Accomplish Big Things
TCU is just two wins away from its first 20-win season since the 2000-01 campaign (20-11). TCU has posted a total of 10 20-win seasons in the school's basketball history. TCU has had at least 18 wins six times in the past 13 years.
Up to 18
On March 2 against USF, TCU recorded its 18th victory of the season, which is already six more than last year's win total of 12 and double the 2002-03 figure of nine. TCU's 18 victories are the most since the 2000-01 season, when the team went 20-11. In the past 13 seasons, TCU has won more than 18 games just four times.
Close Encounters For the Seventh Time
Seven TCU games this season have been decided by six points or less and the Frogs have a 3-4 mark in those contests. In the three years under Neil Dougherty, 28 games have been decided by six or fewer points. TCU is 11-17 in those games, but 10-9 in the past two years after going 1-8 in the first season. After falling to Southern Miss by a 66-64 count on Mar. 5, TCU is now to 7-6 all time under Neil Dougherty in games decided by three points or less. After suffering defeats in three of the first four one-possession games under Coach D, the Horned Frogs have been victorious in six of their last nine games that have been determined by three or less and have won four of the last six.
Down to the Wire
Four TCU games during the Conference USA season came down to shots in the final 8 seconds of the game. The Horned Frogs received a Corey Santee three-pointer with 0.2 seconds left to break a tie to give TCU a 61-59 win at Memphis; Marcus Shropshire misfired on a three-point attempt with 4 seconds remaining in a 64-62 loss at DePaul; Shropshire buried a trey with 7.5 seconds left to give TCU a 63-62 win over Marquette; and Aaron Curtis came up short on a 30-footer at the buzzer after Southern Miss scored on a putback with 3.5 seconds remaining in a 66-64 Southern Miss victory.
TCU In Tight Games
TCU is 5-6 in games decided by 10 points or less this season. The Horned Frogs had four tough league road losses, falling by eight points at Saint Louis, seven at Charlotte and just two at DePaul and Southern Miss. Just one of TCU's last six games has been determined by fewer than 10 points after six of the previous eight games were single-digit contests.