Fort Worth, TX - TCU won their season opener on Thursday night with an 83-62 victory over Division III opponent Southwestern.
With nine new faces for the Horned Frogs, and just four upperclassmen on the team, (Desmond Bane, Edric Dennis Jr., Jaire Grayer, and Owen Aschieris), the Frogs are one of the youngest teams in college basketball.
Some of that inexperience showed in the first half, with choppy offensive play and missed assignments on defense. The up and down half might be a sign of things to come for the Frogs this season.
That being said, true freshman PJ Fuller looked the part of a 4-star recruit, Francisco Farabello held his own, and grad transfers Edric Dennis Jr. and Jaire Grayer bring a ton of much-needed experience and it showed.
But for most of the half it seemed like Desmond Bane and Kevin Samuel were dragging the Frogs to a lead, putting up a combined 26 points and 10 rebounds as TCU carried a 43-38 lead into the half.
Another reason for the close score was Pirates’ senior Brandon Alexander, who poured in 20 first half points for Southwestern.
TCU started the second half with two corner threes, one from Grayer and one from Bane, as the Frogs looked to shake off the early jitters and pull away from the Pirates.
Those two shots started a 13-0 run for the Frogs over the next few minutes, as TCU pulled out to a 56-40 lead at the 15:46 mark of the second half. The run was punctuated by a breakaway allyoop form Nembhard to Bane, who posterized a poor Pirate and earned a free throw in the process.
Desmond Bane #GoFrogs pic.twitter.com/bO3Lqh2zaP— TCU Basketball (@TCUBasketball) November 8, 2019
The Frogs maintained a ~15 point lead for the majority of the second half, completely stifling Southwestern (as they should) with some very good perimeter play. Dennis Jr. and Fuller specifically stood out on the defensive end, and they forced turnovers that created opportunities on offense for the Frogs.
A hot streak from Southwestern briefly pulled them to within 78-62 in the final minutes, but TCU finished the game on a 5-0 run to win 83-62.
Bane finished with 26 points on 10-16 shooting, including 5-10 from the floor. Kevin Samuel finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds, but was mostly quiet in the second half with just two points and four rebounds after the break.
Brandon Alexander finished with 28 points for Southwestern, but was largely quiet in the second half as TCU clamped down defensively.
Probably the biggest thing to note from this entire contest was that TCU actually got out rebounded 35-33. That’s not a good sign for a team that will soon face squads much, much bigger than the one they played tonight. Both the players and Jamie Dixon mentioned the rebounding effort unprompted in the postgame press conference.
RJ Nembhard, who looks to take a step forward in his sophomore campaign, finished with 14 points and five assists.
Grad transfers Jaire Grayer and Edric Dennis Jr. both had good first games for TCU, scoring 13 and nine points, respectively. Grayer also pulled down eight rebounds, and Dixon made note of his rebounding efforts after the contest.
True freshmen Francisco Farabello and PJ Fuller, the two highest rated recruits in the 2019 class, had good moments mixed in with some freshmen moments as well. Farabello didn’t score, but he also didn’t turn the ball over on the evening, dishing out five assists as well. Fuller scored four points late, to go with two blocks and just one turnover. If they can both protect the ball this season that would go a long way to TCU finding more success than folks have predicted this offseason.
Another true freshman, Diante Smith, got the start for TCU tonight, but played just five minutes before suffering a hip flexor injury. Dixon isn’t sure if he’ll be ready to go by TCU’s next game on Tuesday.
Dixon noted that the injury early threw off TCU’s rotations, and they had to go to lineups they had not practiced with.
They’ll have more time to work on lineups between now and their next game, as the Frogs tip off at 7:00pm Tuesday night against Louisiana at the Scholly.
Check out the full postgame comments below: