NICEVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Jaylen Fisher is still trying to get his groove back three weeks after returning to action after a pair of injuries, but he was feeling good enough to lead undefeated TCU to the Emerald Coast Classic championship.
Fisher scored 20 points and the Horned Frogs topped St. Bonaventure 89-79 in the title game Saturday night. The sophomore guard had been out for 18 weeks with hand and knee injuries before being cleared to play three weeks ago.
“It’s almost like we’ve started over with him as a freshman,” TCU coach Jamie Dixon said. “We’ve seen him get better and better. . We’re seeing Jaylen get into that groove now.
There was plenty of back-and-forth before TCU (6-0) eventually overpowered the scrappy Bonnies (3-2) at Northwest Florida State College.
Five players scored in double figures for the Horned Frogs. Adding to Fisher’s total were Kenrich Williams with 17 points, Kouat Noi with 14. Desmond Bane with 12 and Vlad Brodziansky with 11.
Williams, who led TCU with 12 rebounds, was named the tournament’s most outstanding player.
Izaiah Brockington led the Bonnies with 20 points followed by Matt Mobley with 18, Courtney Stockard with 16 and LaDarien Griffin with 13.
The score was tied four times and the lead changed hands five times in the first seven minutes. The Horned Frogs then broke a 12-12 tie on a pair of free throws by Ahmed Hamdy and maintained a lead that ranged from one to eight points before the first half ended with TCU up 39-36.
“We should have been ahead by more in the first half, but we’re not there yet, I mean just the simplest way to put it, as far as finishing games,” Dixon said. “In the second half we did a better job.”
There were two ties and two lead changes in the first 3:24 of the second period before TCU broke a 42-42 tie on a 3-pointer by Bane. This time the closest the Bonnies could get was three points, while the Frogs expanded their lead to as many as 11.
“We had chances; we got close a couple times in the second half but could not get over the hump,” said Bonnies coach Mark Schmidt. “It seemed like (TCU) got a loose ball or a rebound every time they needed it.”
St. Bonaventure: The Bonnies continued to miss Jaylen Adams, their top returning scorer from last season, who has been sidelined since spraining an ankle during a preseason exhibition game. Things can only get better when Adams returns. With the senior guard sidelined and below average scoring by Mobley in both games here, St. Bonaventure still managed to pull out a thrilling 63-61 Emerald Coast semifinal win Friday over previously undefeated Maryland.
The first meeting between the two storied basketball programs was a classic display of grit and determination. What coach Mark Schmidt called a “blue-collar approach” will serve the Bonnies well in their bid for a third consecutive 20-win season.
TCU: The Horned Frogs extended a winning streak that began last season to 11 straight as well as their mastery of tournament play. Returning their top six scorers from last season, they’ve now won three out of the last four tournaments they’ve been involved in. Besides the NIT, they won the Global Sports Classic in Las Vegas last year by knocking off UNLV and Washington. Their only tournament loss in that span came at the hands of Iowa State in a Big 12 semifinal last season. That was the Frogs’ last loss before launching their current winning streak that puts them in a good position to crack the Top-25 and get an NCAA bid.
St. Bonaventure: The Bonnies travel on Wednesday to Siena (1-4), which won for the first time this season on Saturday by topping Hofstra 85-76. It’s one of seven remaining nonconference games before the Bonnies launch their Atlantic 10 schedule.
TCU: The Horned Frogs on Wednesday host Belmont (4-2), which is coming off a 66-65 loss to Providence, in one of their six remaining nonconference games before beginning Big 12 play.
This story has been corrected to show TCU’s coach is Jamie Dixon.