The third time was the charm for Jamie Dixon’s squad in the Big 12/SEC challenge as they earned an “ugly” victory over Florida 55-50. Dixon’s first win in three attempts in the challenge improved the Horned Frogs to 15-4 on the season.
TCU overcame a 17-turnover day with the strength of their defense, which limited Florida to 31 percent shooting.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game, give credit to Florida, they’re one of the best defensive teams in the country, so we knew we needed to battle on both ends of the floor,” guard Desmond Bane said. “We were able to get enough stops down the stretch to get the win. It was a good win for us.”
It’s the second-straight “ugly win” for the Horned Frogs after scoring only 65 points in Wednesday’s win over Texas.
“I wouldn’t have believed it at the beginning of the year, but it’s been an emphasis all throughout the year that we were going to have to win some games defensively,” Bane said. “You only hope to make every shot, but if your defense is consistent, you’ll be able to win games even if your shot isn’t falling like tonight.”
TCU scored the game’s first 11 points with forward Kouat Noi putting up the first seven while guard Alex Robinson scored the next four. It took the Gators 5:50 to score their first points, a three-pointer from guard Deaundrae Ballard.
Florida wouldn’t score again for another six minutes at which time TCU was already out in front by 15, 18-3. The Horned Frogs’ largest lead of the half was 16, 32-16, which came after Noi drilled a three-point from the right wing with 2:12 left in the half.
After missing last weekend’s contest at Kansas State, Noi has gotten off to strong starts in the last two games against Texas and Florida.
“Yeah, it’s all the rest I got,” Noi said. “I think moving to the three-spot made crashing the boards much easier and people playing that three-position can’t really box me out, so I can run in there and get the boards.”
The redshirt sophomore led all players with 14 points at the half on an efficient 5-9 shooting in addition to hauling in four rebounds. The Horned Frogs would take a 12-point lead into the locker room at the half, 32-20. TCU limited Florida to eight baskets and a free throw in the first half, which was the lowest-scoring first half by a TCU opponent since Alabama State with 15 on Nov. 14, 2016.
A critical component to the Horned Frogs’ strong first 20 minutes was their ability to take advantages of the Gators miscues, turning seven Florida turnovers into 11 points. The Gators could only muster two points on the Horned Frogs’ five first-half turnovers.
However, Florida utilized a 16-4 run that began at the end of the first half to tie the game at 36 with 12:23 left to play.
The Horned Frogs’ duo from Australia, Noi and Lat Mayen, countered by scoring the next eight points and giving TCU a 44-36 advantage. Noi finished the contest with a game-high 22 points as well as six rebounds.
“We posted him up a little bit today and played through that, and it has, and I think again, it’s made us better defensively as he’s become better guarding on the perimeter,” Dixon said.
After the Gators hit a three-pointer to trim the Horned Frog lead to four, 51-47, with 4:01 to play, Florida shot just one for their last seven shots and TCU guard Desmond Bane made four straight free throws to ice the contest.
The junior scored 17 points Saturday. Dixon said it was his “easiest call of the day” to have Bane end up with the ball in his hands at the end of the game.
Looking ahead, the Horned Frogs have a one-day turnaround before their next game on ESPN’s “Big Monday” at 8 p.m. in Lubbock against No. 14 Texas Tech. TCU is still looking for their first road win in Big 12 play this season.
“It’s going to be tough playing a Big Monday game, only one day of rest,” Bane said. “We have a good group and we have some good momentum going right now, so if we can stick together and play for each other, I think we’ll have a good chance to win another tough game on Monday.”