No. 20 TCU seeks improvement vs. Oral Roberts
Accolades are nice but they are trumped by proof and experience.
Even though TCU is ranked No. 20 in the Associated Press poll, there's no doubt that the Horned Frogs' are nowhere near one of the top college basketball teams in the nation right now -- but they may be with a little more time working together.
TCU, which needed every second of the clock Wednesday to beat Cal State Bakersfield, returns to the court Sunday afternoon when it hosts Oral Roberts at Schollmaier Arena in Fort Worth, Texas.
The Horned Frogs looked like a team in transition in their 66-61 season-opening win. TCU played without its two leading scorers from last season and with two presumptive starters for this year -- guard Jaylen Fisher and forward Kouat Noi, out with knee injuries -- on the sidelines.
"We're a team that had three guys who had played college basketball playing (in the opener)," TCU coach Jamie Dixon said after the win. "We're in a process, and we're going to keep getting better. But we got better from first half to second half. We defended and won with defense."
Junior guard Desmond Bane led the Horned Frogs (1-0) with 14 points and 10 rebounds in the victory, with nine points of those points coming in the final seven minutes, including two free throws to seal the game with 18.8 seconds left.
"My teammates kept trusting me," Bane told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "It was tough to get in rhythm (against Bakersfield), but we grinded it out and got a good win."
Dixon is quick to point out that his team is learning in many ways.
"We've got the ranking people are talking about, so everybody is going to look that we weren't that good," Dixon explained. "Maybe today we weren't, but we are going to be very good."
Oral Roberts (1-1) heads to Cow Town on the heels of a 79-62 win over NAIA powerhouse Southwestern (Kansas) on Friday in Tulsa. The Golden Eagles went on a 21-4 run to close the first half and held on behind the Emmanuel Nzekwesi's 24 points and 12 rebounds.
The Golden Eagles had five players reach double figures in scoring with Sam Kerns hitting for 14, and Carlos Jurgens, Aidan Saunders and Kaelen Malone adding 11 apiece.
Oral Roberts started the game slow, with a combination of turnovers and missed shots allowing Southwestern to lead the game's first 10 minutes. But that's when the Golden Eagles found their stride, using a stout defense to turn the tide.
"Southwestern made seven of their first 11, and we worked getting stops," Oral Roberts coach Paul Mills said. "I thought getting stops allowed us to get opportunities to run, and it opened some threes up -- specifically late."
As the second half started, Oral Roberts' offense resumed the firepower and continued to get high-percentage shots, epitomized by a fast-break dunk from Nzekwesi, who notched the 13th double-double of his career.
"He's going to be bigger than most guys," Mills said about the 6-8, 240-pound Nzekwesi. "He's more suited on the interior with his versatility and occasionally on the perimeter."
Updated November 10, 2018