Following a game Saturday against Kansas State in which the Horned Frogs scored a season-low 55 points, the return of Kouat Noi seemed to do the trick, as the redshirt sophomore scored 15 points and secured 11 rebounds in a 65-61 victory over Texas that maintained TCU’s spotless record at Schollmaier Arena in Big 12 play.
“I was feeling really sick the past week, but I am feeling much better,” Noi said after a bout with the flu sidelined him the majority of last week. “It’s good to be back out there and good to get the win.”
His 11 rebounds were a career-high, a number that could be chalked up to the sheer amount of size in TCU’s starting five, as four of the Horned Frogs’ five starters stood 6’5 or taller.
“He’s [Noi] done it at times, you take out a 6’2 guy and put in a 6’7 guy with experience, it’s good,” TCU head coach Jamie Dixon said.
Noi’s presence as a floor-spacer, shooting 41.5 percent from behind the three-point line, opened up driving lanes for guard Desmond Bane. Bane led all players with 17 points, including two circus lay-ins that gave the Horned Frogs a little bit more separation as they led by eight, 62-54, with 3:53 to play.
“Two years ago, I would have been shaking in my shoes in that game, but I have been through it for three years now,” Bane said. “It feels good with the team looking at you knowing you’ve been here, you’ve done this, so it gives you more confidence to finish down the stretch.”
Texas wouldn’t go down quietly, as Longhorn guard Jase Febres answered with five points in a row to cut the deficit to three, 62-59, with two minutes to go.
The TCU defense was able to hang on in the end, forcing an errant attempt by Texas guard Elijah Mitrou-Long that hit the top of the backboard to end the game.
“We have been trying to get that defense going, that rebounding going, to find ways to win games that way and we did that tonight,” Dixon said. “With the lineup we are going with, we are going to have to do it defensively and make some adjustments offensively.”
The starting lineup of Alex Robinson, Bane, Noi, JD Miller, and center Kevin Samuel led to the Horned Frogs dominating the Longhorns on the glass, out-rebounding Texas by nine, 42-33, including 14 offensive rebounds that became 18 TCU points. Samuel led all players with 13 rebounds to go along with eight points, which was key since both teams shot just 41 percent from the field. The Horned Frogs were even worse behind the arc, missing 15 of their 20 three-point attempts.
“It was huge, we’re starting bigger, so I think that’s something that’s going to improve and be common for us when you put Kouat, JD, and Desmond in there,” Dixon said. “It’s probably a by-product of missing some open shots and three’s. If you run good offense and take good shots, you’ll have more opportunities to get offensive rebounds when you miss.”
The victory improved the Horned Frogs to 14-4 overall, 3-3 in Big 12 play, and 3-0 at home in conference play.
TCU will hit pause on Big 12 action to host the Florida Gators at 11 a.m. Saturday in Schollmaier Arena as part of the Big 12-SEC Challenge. The Horned Frogs are looking for their first win against the SEC under Dixon, as they dropped a home game two years ago against Auburn and a nail-biter on the road against Vanderbilt a year ago.
“I think Florida is pretty good team and a pretty good program with a pretty good history,” Dixon said. “I don’t look at it any differently, it’s game we have to win.”