A nearly two week layoff left the Horned Frogs showing a little rust early, but at the end of the day, TCU was too talented and too deep for a winless Texas Southern squad, as they sent the Tigers to 0-12 and the Frogs to their longest win streak in school history.
“We were ready to play, we had a great week of practices, a great shoot around - great energy. One thing that concerns me, is when we don’t make shots - because we have shooters - is how that effects us in other areas. But that’s something we talk about,” Coach Jamie Dixon said when asked about any potential rust his team might have had after such a long layoff from game play.
It wasn’t always pretty though, as the Frogs struggled to get into a rhythm on offense, looking disjointed in their sets and not moving the ball effectively - something that has been a hallmark through the first ten games of the season. To that point, TCU had just nine assists on 43% shooting in the first half, as they hit just one three pointer through the first twenty minutes. Texas Southern’s 7’2” Trayvon Reed, a transfer from Auburn, gave the Frogs all kinds of problems inside, blocking two shots, pulling down two rebounds, and scoring ten points on 5/5 shooting in the first half. But the Frogs rebounded themselves, closing the opening frame on a 6-0 run that finished with two Desmond Bane free throws with 00.1 on the clock, as he turned a late rebound into two points with the help of a nice move to the rim. Bane had just five first half points on 1/5 shooting, but was backed up by Kouat Noi and Vladimir Brodziansky who went for ten apiece through the first twenty ticks.
But, against an overmatched opponent, the second half usually tells the story, and that was no different Monday evening in Fort Worth. And Coach Dixon knew what needed to change.
“We didn’t do what we were asked to do, what we were told to do, so that was what we addressed really,” Dixon said.
The Frogs started half number two hot, as Kenrich Williams went on a personal 8-0 run that included a pair of threes. JD Miller added a bucket to give the Frogs some breathing room, though the Tigers refused to go away early - thanks to a few ticky tack foul calls against the Frogs early. But, while the Frogs struggled to put the ball through the hoop all night, they absolutely dominated the glass, out-rebounding the Tigers 51-29 and 25-9 on the offensive end. Though Texas Southern had the biggest player on the floor in Reed, the Frogs size advantage overall paid big dividends on the boards and in the paint, as Miller took advantaged of an undersized four man on his way to a 9-13 shooting night, and Ahmed Hamdy - though he struggled shooting the ball (six points on 3/10 shooting) he finished with four offensive rebounds, and kept several possessions alive late. Miller had the big offensive night with 20 total points, 12 of which came in the second stanza including a late four-point play.
“Their center is 7’2”, but their four man is undersized, so I tried to go at him as much as I can and it worked out for me. We just keep attacking, no matter the size,” junior JD Miller said.
Demontrae Jefferson had a big night for the Tigers, especially after being held in check a year ago by the Frogs. He finished 29 points on 12-22 shooting - without shooting a free throw. “Last year we got into him early, forced him to take tough shots. But you know, he can do this, he can keep teams close. Tonight he shot a high percentage,” Dixon said. Southern, who has the #1 strength of schedule in the country, will likely win the SWAC and be a tournament team, and according to Jamie Dixon, shouldn’t hurt the Frogs’ RPI.
“I thought, based on how the schedule played out [we could be undefeated]. I am happy with where we are at - we took care of business. I like our rotation, I like where we are at. I like that we’ve beaten the teams we have beaten,” Dixon said. “It’s a good thing, records are good. That’s what we came here to do - to change, to improve, to make people proud of the program. We plan on winning and having streaks.”
Point guard Alex Robinson believes that winning isn’t a habit yet for his team, but definitely something he enjoys. That being said, the Frogs don’t feel that they have arrived. “We stay focused, we still feel like the underdog, like we have a lot to prove. That’s the mentality we take every day in practice and when we come out here in the games.”
One other note from tonight’s post game, true freshman RJ Nembhard is likely to redshirt, as his knee has been troubling him. Coach Dixon mentioned post game that the plan was to sit the point guard for the remainder of the season as he works through the knee issue.
Next up for the Frogs is their final non-conference game of the season, as TCU hosts the 7-3 Williams & Mary Tribe at 8:00pm Friday night. The Frogs will look to set the school wins record at 17 straight games and finish off an undefeated preseason slate before opening Big 12 play against Trae Young and Oklahoma on December 30th.