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TCU 59, UC Irvine 58: RJ Nembhard keeps Frogs undefeated

Nembhard’s game-winner keeps Frogs perfect.

RJ Nembhard slams home two of his game-high 20 points Thursday night against UC Irvine.
Melissa Triebwasser

Fort Worth, Texas - RJ Nembhard wouldn’t let the Frogs lose on Thursday night. The sophomore’s career-high 20 points dragged TCU to a 59-58 win over UC Irvine that moved the Frogs to 4-0 on the season, and his final three points might be the biggest of his young career.

Nembhard hit a three pointer with 3.3 seconds left in the game, giving TCU their first lead since the 13:36 mark of the second half at 59-58.

UC Irvine’s final in-bounds pass bounced off the hands of Brad Green and rolled away, sealing TCU’s victory.

TCU got some help from the Anteaters down the stretch, too. Irvine missed three free throws in the final minute that could have helped seal a win, including two with 12 seconds left.

Desmond Bane added 11 points and seven rebounds for TCU, but had his second straight tough outing, going just 4-10 from the floor, and only attempting one three. He was guarded for the majority of the game by freshman Jaron Artest, son of Ron Artest (Metta World Peace.

Artest played very solid defense, and definitely helped subdue Bane on the night. He showed flashes of his father, playing almost in Bane’s jersey at points and keeping Bane at bay.

Edric Dennis Jr. played the most he’s played so far this season, and showed veteran leadership down the stretch. He finished the night with seven points and six assists, as he was the primary point guard in the second half. Dixon mentioned after the game that he gave them a bit more defensively than Farabello

Nembhard has averaged 17 points over the last three contests and is emerging as a legitimate No. 2 to Desmond Bane in the scoring department. The sophomore has always been confident, but games like Thursday night are showing everyone else that it’s warranted.

Overall TCU struggled from the floor shooting just 35% on the night, and they got out-rebounded 44-28 that led Jamie Dixon to say afterward “we just have to get better.”

The Anteaters presented a lot more interior size than TCU had seen to this point, and it showed. UCI’s big men Green, Collin Welp, Tommy Rutherford, and Austin Johnson combined for 33 points and 19 rebounds. Green alone finished with a ten point, 12-rebound double-double for the Anteaters.

Meanwhile, Kevin Samuel’s double-double streak came to an end. The big man spend a lot of the night in foul trouble, and he managed just four points and three rebounds in 14 minutes.

Jaedon LeDee, in his second game since being ruled eligible, played 24 minutes with Samuel on the bench and while his five point, two rebound effort may not look impressive, but he once again led with infectious energy and a relentless motor.

In the end, UC Irvine was the toughest competition TCU has faced to this point, and rightfully so. The Anteaters are the favorites to win the Big West this season and make the NCAA Tournament, and they’re currently a Top 50 team in RPI. This is a quality, resume-building win for the Horned Frogs without a doubt.

The win was also Jamie Dixon’s 400th career win as a head coach, and while he grinned afterward when asked about the milestone, he didn’t have too much to say on the subject.

TCU now sits at 4-0 on the season as they prepare to hit the road for the first time this weekend. The Frogs travel to Las Vegas to participate in the MGM Resorts Main Event, where they’ll square off against Clemson on Sunday night, followed by either Colorado or Wyoming on Tuesday night.

Check out the full postgame comments here: