Dixon’s ‘season of firsts’ continues; TCU tops Fresno State 66-59 to start NIT

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Early in his first season in Fort Worth, TCU head coach Jamie Dixon said this season was ‘to be a season of firsts.’

After the Horned Frogs knocked off Fresno State, 66-59, in their first round game of the National Invitation Tournament, this year’s squad became the program’s first  in a dozen years to win at least 20 games.

“Twenty wins is a lot. It’s hard to do,” Dixon said. “It’s something that we expect to be a standard. I want 20 to be something we hit in early February, not in the middle of March. But that’s what our goal is and we’ve got to keep doing it. We’re excited. This is a big step. Postseason wins are good.”

TCU raced out in front Wednesday, not allowing the Bulldogs to make a field goal for the first 4:45 and jumping to a nine-point lead, 13-4.

For the majority of the first half, TCU was out in front until Fresno State started to hit their three-pointers. The Bulldogs’ long-range attack put them ahead by a point, 43-42, before a powerful slam dunk by TCU forward Kenrich Williams at the 11:26 mark quelled the FSU run. Williams recorded his Big 12-high 15th double-double this season,  with 13 points and 10 rebounds. The dunk set the tone for TCU the rest of the way.

“That rallied us together,” TCU guard Alex Robinson Jr. said. “That was a huge play.”

The Bulldogs wouldn’t go away, tying the game up at 47-47 before TCU put the game out of reach with a  13-2 run. Robinson Jr. ignited the run with a layup at the 9:05 mark, then followed it up with a three-pointer. A layup by Williams, a Jaylen Fisher 3-pointer and a Robinson layup extended the Horned Frogs’ cushion , 60-49, with 5:16 remaining.  TCU didn’t surrender the lead for the rest of the night.

A key factor in the TCU victory was defense. The Horned Frogs held the Bulldogs to 42 percent shooting from the field and won the battle on the glass, 39-28.

“The game wasn’t pretty for us offensively but we grinded it out and we out-rebounded them by 11,” Dixon said. “That’s the team we’ve got to become when games are like that. That was great to see.”

Alex Robinson scored a game-high 14 points for the Horned Frogs on an efficient five of eight shooting from the floor.

Up Next

TCU will play its second-round NIT contest in Iowa City against the University of Iowa at 6:30 p.m. Sunday. The Hawkeyes, who are  a No. 1 seed, defeated South Dakota 87-75 Wednesday night in at home.