Coming off of their Hall of Fame Classic championship, TCU Basketball survived a strong effort from Northwestern State to improve to 4-0 with a 74-68 win on Thursday night.
“Good win for us. I thought we’d be better,” head coach Jamie Dixon said. “Simply put: we weren’t as good as I thought we’d be.”
Amidst several surges by the Devils, the Frogs relied heavily on the scoring of guard R.J. Nembhard, who poured in a game-high 23 points on 9-of-17 shooting.
The junior was all over the stat sheet, adding eight rebounds, three assists, a block, and a steal to his scoring effort.
TCU outrebounded Northwestern State 44-35, largely due to the efforts of center Kevin Samuel. The 6′ 11″, 255-pounder tallied his second double-double of the year, grabbing a game-high 15 boards to go with his 12 points.
Samuel also added three blocks in the game. He now has 171 in his career, tied with Vladimir Brodziansky and James Penny for most all-time in school history.
The Frogs struggled from behind-the-arc and the free-throw line. TCU made just seven of their 26 three-point attempts while shooting 50 percent from the charity stripe.
“You can’t really separate from a team when they foul you and you can’t make free throws,” Dixon said. “We’ve been doing that consistently for four games.”
The Devils’ Trenton Massner and Kendal Coleman kept them in the game with consistent and efficient scoring. The duo went a combined 14-for-23 with 36 points on the night.
After struggling with efficiency in his first two games of the season (5-for-21 combined), Nembhard started the game red hot, hitting his first four shots and scoring 10 of TCU’s first 14 points.
“My teammates have a lot of confidence in me. My coaches have a lot of confidence in me,” Nembhard said. “I worked really hard, so I wasn’t really worried about the rhythm coming.”
On the other end, Massner looked unfazed by Nembhard’s strong start. The guard hit four of his first six shots for 10 early points of his own to keep the Devils within a bucket seven minutes into the game.
Just five minutes later, TCU’s lead had ballooned to 11 as four-straight made shots propelled them into a 9-0 run.
Once again, Northwestern State refused to go away, capitalizing on turnovers and poor three-point shooting by TCU to make it just a six-point game at the half.
The Frogs committed seven turnovers and shot just 4-for-15 from behind-the-arc in the first half. Despite having a four-inch height advantage over the Devils’ starting big man, Samuel took just four shots in the first 30 minutes, making three.
Northwestern State looked hungry for an upset coming out of halftime. Just two and a half minutes into the second half, the Devils took a one-point lead, forcing a TCU timeout.
Seven-straight points from sophomore P.J. Fuller helped the Frogs get back on track, but they were unable to put any significant ground between them and the Devils until late in the second half.
Eventually, Nembhard’s continued scoring and Samuel’s dominant presence on the boards wore down on Northwestern State, and TCU was able to extend their lead to double digits again with eight minutes to go.
From there, the Frogs’ lead fluctuated between eight and 12, with a late steal by guard Francisco Farabello leading to a dunk by forward Jaedon LeDee to seal the win for TCU.
Fuller and LeDee rounded out TCU’s double-digit scorers, contributing 13 and 11 points, respectively. Farabello tied his career-best with seven assists and zero turnovers.
Despite the Frogs’ struggles, Dixon did mention after the game that it was good for TCU to have all 13 of their players available in the contest for the first time this season.
“It’s a no-excuse season,” Dixon said. “We’ve got to become a no-excuse program, a no-excuse ball club.”
Up next, TCU will jump right into conference play with a matchup against Oklahoma at home on Sunday. Tipoff against the Sooners is set for Dec. 6 at 3 p.m.