Fort Worth, TX - TCU survived an upset scare on Tuesday night, knocking off the North Dakota State Bison 89-82.
Freshman Mike Miles, starting once again in place of an injured Francisco Farabello, scored a career-high 26 points while adding four assists to lead TCU. RJ Nembhard added 22 points of his own, along with six rebounds and five assists. The two combined to shoot 17-28 (60.7%) from the floor, including 7-10 from three point range.
Miles’ impressive performances are becoming less surprising to Frog fans. His confidence is evident, and he’s ready to continue proving his abilities to the rest of the country.
“I’m just trusting myself and trusting my abilities. I’m going out every night and playing my hardest.” Miles said after the game. “I’m kind of tired of people being surprised that I’m playing this well.”
The surprise will fade eventually, as Miles continues to put on shows when he’s on the court. He’s already reached the 20-point mark in three games this season, and shows no signs of slowing down.
Everything pointed to a blowout in Fort Worth early on. TCU led by as much as 17, pulling out to a 33-27 lead behind 14 first-half points from Mike Miles. TCU was hitting on all cylinders, shooting 71% from the floor and nearly 60% from deep, while their defense swarmed the Bison shooters.
But then the momentum shifted. A few questionable foul calls and broken defensive assignments sparked North Dakota State, who went on an extended 16-0 run over a 3:51 span to pull within one, 44-43.
Two free throws from RJ Nembhard followed by a Nembhard corner three pushed TCU back out to a 49-43 lead with just a few minutes left.
Sophomore Jarius Cook hit four first-half threes to lead the Bison in their comeback, and he finished with 16 first-half points. Meanwhile, RJ Nembhard led the Frogs with 15 points at the break.
The second half continued to be a struggle for the Frogs. They fell behind in short order and battled from behind for the majority of the second half. RJ Nembhard briefly gave the Frogs a 67-66 lead with a wing three, with about nine minutes left in the game, but that lead was quickly erased by another defensive breakdown for TCU.
TCU rediscovered some consistency in offense late in the game thanks to Kevin Samuel, who finished with 14 points and six rebounds. Samuel stabilized the Frogs when they needed him, and his interior presence raised questions about why the Frogs had gone away from him early.
His presence around the rim helped start a 14-5 run that pushed TCU to an 84-75 lead with just over a minute remaining in the game.
That’s when the free throws began.
Nembhard made two free throws with 53 seconds left, giving TCU an 86-77 lead, but he and Kevin Easley both missed front ends of 1-and-1 opportunities, while NDSU hit a few shots, keeping the Bison alive.
With just over 20 seconds remaining, Nembhard missed another free throw, but PJ Fuller forced a turnover in the backcourt and drew a foul in the process.
Fuller would go on to make three of his four free throw opportunities down the stretch and draw two charges to help close the game out for TCU.
TCU has one more non-conference game before entering the full Big 12 slate, and after Tuesday’s win Miles spoke a bit about where he things the Frogs can go from here.
“We’re a young team but we go out and give it our best eery night. We’re playing as hard as we can and listening to our coaches, as well as RJ and Kev,” Miles said, “We’re listening to them and following their lead. We go where they go, so that’s big for us coming back.”
While Miles is right, it’s looking more and more like this team will also go where he takes them, and that’s good news for TCU.