The TCU men’s basketball team had to take the long way home Thursday night, but no one was complaining.The Horned Frogs were feeling good, and no amount of weather-related travel problems were going to detract from their 71-61 win at Mississippi State. The team was forced to fly its chartered plane into Waco and then take a bus back to Fort Worth. It got in around 2:30 a.m. Friday.“The bus was quiet,” coach Trent Johnson said. “Guys were tired, but this is a good group. There’s not a lot of complaining. It wasn’t like we were jumping up and down [because of the win].”Maybe not, but the win in Starkville, Miss. — TCU’s fourth on the road this season — was impressive for several reasons. First is that the Frogs (5-3) did it without Amric Fields and Hudson Price. Both players are important elements in the team’s present and future plans, so to beat a Southeastern Conference team, even a lower-rung team such as the Bulldogs, is a big step.Also, the Frogs had to withstand a momentum-changing rally from MSU that cut TCU’s lead to 59-56 with 2:28 left. TCU outscored MSU 12-5 the rest of the way. Would last year’s TCU team have won that game? Probably not. Johnson isn’t big on comparing seasons, but there seems to be no question this team is tougher.“That [last year’s TCU team would have won] I don’t know,” he said. “I can’t reflect back on that. I know this year’s team can shoot the ball. These guys are more accustomed to the system.”He said the team was further along because it got an extra 10 days of practice for a trip to Canada last summer.A win is good no matter the circumstances, Johnson said, but considering the Frogs don’t play again until UT Pan American comes to Daniel-Meyer Coliseum on Dec. 15, Thursday’s victory was especially positive for players trying to concentrate on final exams.“Winning is winning. I think what’s good about it is that we all weren’t happy the way they competed against Harvard,” Johnson said of the team’s 21-point loss in the Great Alaska Shootout title game. “To get a win without Amric and Hudson — it makes you feel good. To get a win like that and be able to come back and have three days off and get some guys better — I think it’s good.”TCU made 25 of 31 free throws, including 8 of 10 in the final 1:34. The most TCU made last season was 22 in its upset over Kansas. The Frogs also missed 16 free throws that night.“We kept our poise,” Johnson said. “We’ve proven that against certain people on the road, we can compete and we can win games.”Briefly• Freshman Karviar Shepherd had a career-high 16 rebounds, including 14 defensive rebounds, one shy of tying Kurt Thomas for fifth most in a game at TCU. Thomas had 15 defensive rebounds against SMU in 1994.• Freshman Michael Williams tied a career-high with 11 points.• Junior Kyan Anderson had 16 points, his fifth game in double-figure scoring and 35th of his career.
Stefan Stevenson 817-390-7760 Twitter: @FollowtheFrogs