JaKobe Coles’ heroics lifts TCU past Arizona State in NCAA tournament opener

TCU guard Rondel Walker, center, and teammates celebrate a win over Arizona State in a first-round college basketball game in the men’s NCAA Tournament on Friday, March 17, 2023, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

TCU guard Rondel Walker, center, and teammates celebrate a win over Arizona State in a first-round college basketball game in the men’s NCAA Tournament on Friday, March 17, 2023, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)


TCU rallied from an 11-point deficit to stun Arizona State, 72-70, in the first round of the NCAA tournament Friday night

With 1.5 seconds remaining JaKobe Coles hit a running laying up in the lane to complete one of the biggest comebacks of the day.

“We withstood a barrage of tough shots that they made,” coach Jamie Dixon said. “The character our guys showed in the second half, the commitment to one another, the response, the intensity we brought defensively that was the difference.

At one point it seemed like Arizona State was going to be on the verge of blowing TCU out of Ball Arena, but Mike Miles Jr. refused to let his team go home in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

TCU fell behind by double digits early in the second half, but with 4:20 remaining, TCU cut the deficit to 65-60, after a Chuck O’Bannon 3-pointer. Miles made it 67-64 with a tough layup inside with just over two minutes remaining. Next, Miles drew a charge on the next Sun Devils’ possession to get TCU the ball back with 2:01 remaining.

Miles found an open Damion Baugh for the tying 3-pointer in the corner and Baugh would later add two free throws to put TCU ahead 69-67 with 34.7 seconds remaining. Baugh scored all 11 of his points in the second half and knocked down three 3-pointers, it was tied for the most he’s made in a game this season.

“We’ve got good leadership, I just kind of felt Mike and Damion weren’t going to let us lose,” Dixon said. “That’s a good tandem to have.”

Arizona State had a chance to tie it, but missed a shot at the rim as Miles secured the rebound. The star guard split the free throws giving TCU a 70-67 edge. The drama wasn’t done as DJ Horne hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key to tie at 70 with 12.4 seconds remaining setting up the moment for Coles.

“It was a big moment for sure, it was a good pass from Mike,” Coles said. “I knew they were going to try and double him and I just took a shot I always take. I’m confident in them, a lot of shots today were flat, but the last one I got it up. That was the difference and it went in. I’m happy for my team, happy for the win.”

For Miles, seeing his former AAU teammate have his one shining moment meant everything.

“I’m so happy for him, he deserves everything he’s getting,” Miles said. “Getting the game-winning basket in the biggest game of his life is something he’s been wanting. He didn’t play last year, he’s playing this year, I’m so happy for him.”

March Miles

Miles did what was expected of him as he was the best player on the floor. Miles came out hot scoring 16 points in the first half including two 3-pointers. In the second half Miles had to grit through pain to help TCU try to overcome an 11-point deficit.

He did a little bit of everything in the second half to try and keep TCU alive. He made clutch baskets in the final five minutes, blocked a would-be dunk by a much taller Arizona State player and even drew a charge late in the game.

He finished with a game-high 26 points, including 12 of 14 from the foul line. More impressively, he did not have a turnover in the game.

“My mentality was just do anything to help us win,” Miles said. “I knew I had to lead, get some stops, get some buckets to get us back into the game. I know when they see me playing defense it gives them energy, so I got the block on the big, I got the charge, it gave us energy and we got the win.”

Turning the tide

Arizona State seemingly couldn’t miss in the first half, but the second was a different story as TCU buckled down. The Sun Devils’ field goal percentage plummeted to 36% overall and 29% from 3-point range. The Horned Frogs forced 10 turnovers in the final 20 minutes.

There wasn’t much TCU changed schematically as the Horned Frogs did a good job of contesting shots in the first half, but you know what they say, it was just a case of ‘Good D, Better O’. To fix that, the Horned Frogs challenged themselves at halftime.

“I think our presence defensively, I think there was a lack of effort,” Emanuel Miller said. “We did do a good job of contesting shots (in the first half), but I think they were too comfortable. In the second half, we did a great job of just disturbing their offense, especially in the ball screens.

“Coach told us to make sure to push up on the point guard or whoever was in the ball screen and make sure we load on the weakside. I think that was the biggest game changer.”

Frantic start

TCU looked prime to cruise against Arizona State as the Horned Frogs jumped out to a 13-2 lead. Miles and O’Bannon combined to score 10 of those as TCU made its first four shots from the field. TCU maintained a 15-4 edge at the first media timeout. From that point, the tone of the game changed dramatically.

Suddenly the Sun Devils couldn’t miss from the field behind bench players Jamiya Neal and Alonzo Gaffey. Arizona State stormed back with a 9-0 run to make it a one possession game. At one point the Sun Devils made seven of their eight shots to eventually take their first lead of the game, 20-19, with 9:55 left in the half.

The two teams continued the entertaining back and forth with each team taking a one-point lead only for the other to snatch it right back. The Sun Devils started to gain separation late in half after a pair of free throws from Brennan made it 37-33. Miles answered with a poster dunk over a defender, but Miles came up limping on the play and had to exit the game briefly before returning.

Arizona State outscored TCU 7-2 in the final 1:14 to take a 44-37 lead into halftime. The Sun Devils shot almost 60% from the field in one of their best offensive displays of the season.

This story was originally published March 18, 2023, 12:37 AM.

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