FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — With nine newcomers and the first preseason ranking in 20 years, TCU figures to lean on holdovers Alex Robinson, Desmond Bane and JD Miller to try to live up to the billing early.
Such was the case in the season’s second game.
Robinson scored 23 points, Bane added 22 to go with the 6-foot-8 Miller’s game-high seven assists and the 20th-ranked Horned Frogs never trailed after struggling in the opener, rolling to a 79-62 victory over Oral Roberts on Sunday.
“Those three guys, we’re real comfortable with them. They’re real comfortable with us,” said coach Jamie Dixon, starting his third season at his alma mater. “But they’re more comfortable with each other. We’ve just got guys that got to play together. That’s what those guys bring.”
The Horned Frogs (2-0) were sluggish in their opener, trailing by as many as 11 points before rallying to beat Cal State Bakersfield.
But TCU took the opposite approach against the Golden Eagles (1-2), running out to a 23-6 lead in the first seven minutes before Oral Roberts got within seven points in the second half.
The Horned Frogs reasserted control with a 7-0 run for a 50-36 lead, had another 7-0 spurt to push the margin to 22 and led by as many as 25 points in the second half.
“You’ve seen this a lot,” ORU coach Paul Mills said. “Sometimes you get a lead and people think it’s going to be easier than what they anticipate. I am proud of our guys for their fight. The thing they began to do was to get out and try to get easier opportunities in transition.”
TCU redshirt freshman Kevin Samuel of Barbuda had his first double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds, and Miller had 13 points to go with the assists as the Horned Frogs had assists on 22 of 29 baskets. Bane had five assists.
“We really had good spacing today’s game,” Miller said. “Coach really emphasized in the first game we didn’t have good spacing.”
Emmanuel Nzekwesi had 16 points and eight rebounds and Sam Kearns scored 15 for Oral Roberts in a matchup of teams with 17 newcomers between them. The Golden Eagles have eight.
“Anytime you have eight new guys, having not been in a Big 12 environment, you don’t really understand the defensive end of the court,” Mills said. “I thought we established, got better there and allowed us to get back in the game.”
Oral Roberts: The Golden Eagles gave themselves something to build on by erasing a good portion of a 17-point first-half deficit before halftime. Although they faded after getting close in the second half, the bucket that got them within seven was a boost — an emphatic dunk from Kerwin Smith.
TCU: In the opening minutes, the Horned Frogs looked determined to show something after falling behind early against Cal State Bakersfield. While the lull that followed didn’t please Dixon much, the surge after the Golden Eagles got close in the second half was impressive in its variety.
“I thought we were really good early and then it just kind of got away from us, forced some shots, quick ones,” Dixon said. “That’s just what you might expect with a team finding itself.”
Robinson was 4 of 6 from 3-point range and Bane, the Big 12’s best 3-point shooter last season, made two of four to help the Horned Frogs finish at 47 percent behind the arc (7 of 15). The Golden Eagles weren’t anywhere close to that accuracy, making just five of 21 (24 percent).
Dixon said point guard Jaylen Fisher is closer to a return after an eventful 10 months with a right knee injury that started with a meniscus tear in January. Fisher had arthroscopic surgery in September. “He probably feels like he can play. We’re just being cautious I guess,” Dixon said.
Oral Roberts: California Baptist at home Tuesday.
TCU: Fresno State at home Thursday.
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