FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — For TCU coach Trent Johnson, possibly the best thing about starting 9-0 for the first time since the 1997-98 season was his team’s solemn postgame locker room.
The Horned Frogs (9-0) matched their win total from all of last season with an 80-69 victory over Furman Tuesday night. But, while winning is important, Johnson said, “defensively we just were not very good.”
“I didn’t expect to go in there and guys be happy,” Johnson said. “But they understand.”
TCU started the 1997-98 season 9-0 and made the NCAA Tournament. Last season, the Horned Frogs earned their ninth win on December 29 then lost 19 straight as they started Big 12 Conference play.
Kyan Anderson led the Frogs with 21 points, the 19th 20-point game of his career. Amric Fields scored a season-high 14, Kenrich Williams added 11 and Trey Zeigler 10.
Stephen Croone led Furman (2-5) with 23 points. Devin Sibley and Kendrec Ferrara each scored 14 and Geoff Beans added 10 points.
“A lot of credit needs to go to Furman,” Johnson said. “They were undersized at every position, and for us to have a rebound differential of one speaks volumes for their aggressiveness and our lack of. We’re very fortunate to win this basketball game. They had way too many uncontested shots, and I thought they beat us at the point of attack on numerous occasions.”
Furman cut TCU’s lead to 33-31 a minute into the second half, but the Paladins couldn’t get closer than that as Chris Washburn and Williams solidified the Frogs’ inside game. Washburn and Williams combined for 15 points and six rebounds in the second half, but more importantly clogged up the middle on defense.
“Both of those guys are very, very unselfish,” Johnson said. “Chris is always looking to pass, he’s never trying to force the issue. And Kenrich is the same. They’re really stable and playing at a consistent clip right now.”
A 3-pointer by Sibley brought Furman within 56-50 midway through the second half, but a crafty layup by Anderson, a monster block by Washburn and then a 3-pointer from Anderson had TCU on another roll. Furman got to within seven points twice in the last 6 1/2 minutes, but TCU always had an answer.
The Frogs were down 8-7 early on then went on a 16-2 run where Fields scored nine points for TCU’s largest lead of the game, 23-10. A fired up Furman coach Niko Medved called a timeout and the Paladins scored eight of the game’s next nine points, including a 3-pointer and fast-break layup for Croone on back-to-back possessions.
TCU led 30-20 with 3 1/2 minutes to play in the first half when Furman went on a 9-0 run. Anderson’s 3-pointer with 47 seconds to play gave TCU a 33-29 lead at halftime.
TCU: The Horned Frogs made just 20 of 34 free throws for the game, but three different players combined to go 9 of 10 in the last 1:44.
Furman: Three nights after Stephen Croone scored a career-high 33 points in Furman’s 74-64 win over Samford, Croone led the Paladins with 23 points. He hit 8 of 14 shots from the field and had three assists, three steals and four rebounds.
Furman’s Stephen Croone, who scored 15 of Furman’s 29 first-half points, started the game with a bang, hitting a 3-pointer and completing a three-point play in a one-minute stretch. “He got his first six points, so usually with guys like that who are volume shooters and who have the ball a lot, you need to really get after them early,” Johnson said. “He has a good demeanor and a good temperament with which he plays.”
At 6-foot-7 and 195 pounds, Kenrich Williams is quite a big presence off the bench for the Horned Frogs. But Johnson doesn’t look at Williams as a bench guy, “I look at Kenrich as one of our top three or four players. We didn’t have that last year.” Against Furman, Williams hit 5 of 6 shots from the field for a career-high-tying 11 points. He also draws the opponents’ best offensive player most games. “He’s capable of guarding the 1 through 4, and it’s important to him,” Johnson said. “Scoring is second — rebounding and defending, that’s what he prides himself on. He has a level of toughness about him, he’s not a big talker, it’s all about action with him. And I love it.”
TCU hosts McNeese State on Saturday.