In their return to Schollmaier Arena, TCU men’s basketball held off a late second half run by Illinois State to defeat the Redbirds 81-69 on Tuesday.
“[It was] a good win for us against a good team that really came out and played,” head coach Jamie Dixon said.
The Frogs entered Tuesday’s contest coming off of the MGM Resorts Main Event in Las Vegas, where they suffered their first loss of the season to Clemson.
Guard Desmond Bane led all scorers with 23 points. It was his second-straight game to top the 20-point mark after pouring in 22 points last week against Wyoming.
The senior also added nine rebounds, five assists and two steals in the win.
The game began with a less-than-ideal start for TCU, as the Frogs missed their first seven shots and fell behind 7-0 under three minutes into the game.
“I thought we were better defensively, and we’re not,” Dixon said.
Six points each from guards Bane and Diante Smith (on the first two made three-pointers of his career) put TCU back in business, though.
The Frogs didn’t lose the lead for the rest of the half, but the Redbirds didn’t go away. TCU struggled to stop Illinois State guard Zach Copeland (14.9 points per game), who tallied 11 points in the first half alone.
Copeland finished with 19 points.
Meanwhile, the Frogs attempted to live by the three, but it didn’t work. In the first 20 minutes, TCU shot just 24 percent from deep, keeping ISU in the game.
Bane’s 12 first-half points helped the Frogs hold a slim 39-32 lead at the halftime break.
Back-to-back three-pointers from guard Jaire Grayer gave TCU a 52-39 lead early in the second half, and the Frogs looked to be in control.
“The ones that are open: I know and have confidence to knock down,” Grayer said.
The Redbirds came storming back though, riding five made three-pointers en route to a 20-7 run to tie it at 59 with 9:17 left in the game.
“Coach really stressed it that we couldn’t give up threes,” Bane said. “We got a little stagnant offensively, and it just allowed them [ISU] to get back in the game.”
That was as close as ISU would get. Stout defense and improved offensive production gave TCU the lead yet again, and they never looked back.
The Frogs shot 40 percent from deep in the second half.
With the win, the Frogs advance to 6-1 on the season.
Grayer finished with a season-high 15 points on a season-high four three-pointers made. Guard R.J. Nembhard scored 10 of his own in the contest.
“He’s [Grayer] been doing that his whole career,” Bane said. “That’s kind of what we expected when we signed him.”
Up next, TCU will face USC in the inaugural game in Dickies Arena. Tipoff against the Trojans is scheduled for Friday at 8 pm.