FORT WORTH, TX - TCU developed a big lead early and held on late, never trailing in a 55-50 victory over Florida on Saturday morning. The Frogs were paced by 22 points from Kouat Noi and 17 points from Desmond Bane as TCU moved to 15-4 on the season.
The Frogs are in the midst of a tough stretch when it comes to opposing defenses, and it seems like TCU is growing up right before our eyes. Jamie Dixon mentioned that in his post game remarks.
“We’re on a roll here where we’re playing like, if you look at defensive efficiency, top ten teams game after game after game. You look at Oklahoma, Kansas is better defensive team this year, Kansas State obviously, Texas is a good defensive team, West Virginia is unique, and then Florida may be number one in defensive efficiency from what I saw the other day.”
Dixon’s not too far off, either. If you look at the defensive efficiecny ratings from KenPom (which are adjusted to account for opponent) Florida is No. 8. Kansas State is 3rd, Kansas is 10th, Oklahoma is 14th, and Texas is 19th.
TCU’s defense is 17th by the same metric, and they flexed that defense early and often on Saturday.
“Just being able to win ugly, I think that’s a thing we struggled to do in the past.” Desmond Bane said, “So we’ve done it a few times now, been able to win a couple of close games which is huge for us and our program.”
Kouat Noi got TCU’s offense started well right out of the gate on Saturday morning, scoring the Frogs’ first seven points of the contest. His scoring included a traditional three-point play, a layup on a beautiful pass from Alex Robinson, and a put-back dunk on a missed Desmond Bane jumper.
“My first couple of points started the momentum for the entire team,” Noi said afterward, “Everyone was looking for each other and I just give credit to my teammates for finding me when I was open.”
Meanwhile, TCU’s defense was dominant through the opening four minutes, holding Florida to 0-5 shooting from the floor and three turnovers. Over that time the Frogs also blocked three shots (two by Kevin Samuel, one by Bane).
Alex Robinson scored the next five points for TCU, while Florida finally got on the board with a three from Deaundrae Ballard, and the 12-3 score would hold until less than 11 minutes remaining in the first half.
Noi hit two free throws, pushing the Frogs lead to nine. Desmond Bane got into the action at that point, making two layups, including one on a beautiful half-court pass from Alex Robinson, as the Frogs took an 18-3 lead halfway through the first half.
Florida continued to battle, despite starting just 1-15 from the floor with seven turnovers, and two quick baskets, plus a free throw, cut TCU’s lead to ten.
TCU responded with a 9-5 run to pull out to a 27-13 lead, as Bane snapped TCU’s 0-6 start from three-point range with a corner three at the 3:52 mark of the first half.
Noi continued his scoring frenzy in impressive fashion - after missing a three, he followed his own miss and put back his rebound with a tomahawk dunk. TCU extended their lead to 32-16 in the final few minutes of the first half, but Florida finished on a mini 4-0 run to make the score 32-20 at the break.
Florida continued to claw back after the half, starting on a 9-2 run to cut TCU’s lead to 34-29 at the 15:25 mark. The Gators continued their run well into the second half, eventually pulling even with the Frogs at 34.
TCU pulled back ahead thanks to some Kendric Davis free throws and a Kouat Noi bucket, and Lat Mayen got in on the action with a big three pointer as well, pushing the Frogs’ lead to 44-36.
The Gators wouldn’t go away, though, and TCU’s lead fluctuated between eight and four over the next 5+ minutes of game time. A Noi three-pointer pushed TCU’s lead to 51-44 with 4:25 remaining, but Florida responded with a three of their own to cut the lead to 51-47.
Neither team scored over the next 3+ minutes, until Desmond Bane was sent to the free throw line with 21.5 seconds left. He made both, pushing TCU’s lead to 53-47. Florida’s ensuing possession saw the ball batted around quite a bit, but it finished with a corner three from Keyontae Johnson, cutting the Frogs’ lead to 53-50.
Desmond Bane was fouled with 2.2 seconds left, and he sank both ends of the one-and-one to clinch TCU’s victory, 55-50.
TCU moves to 2-1 in the Big 12/SEC Challenge now under Dixon, and he spoke after the game about the importance of taking care of business in a series like this.
“We can’t keep going around telling everyone that we’re the best conference in the country and then come up short in this thing. We did our part and I’m proud of that.”
The Frogs now have one day of rest before they hit the road again. TCU heads to Lubbock for a Big Monday matchup with Texas Tech.