The wins at this time of the season matter less than they do in January and February.
But after the last two years, the TCU men will take them.
“Winning is important. That’s what you play for,” coach Trent Johnson said. “Being competitive and winning is important.”
The Horned Frogs were both last weekend at the Corpus Christi Coastal Classic, where they won two games in the holiday basketball tournament, defeating Bradley and Mississippi State on consecutive nights.
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The victories kept the Horned Frogs (7-0) undefeated in a rebuilding season against somewhat modest competition so far. Johnson, in his third season with the Frogs, said last week that the TCU program is not ready for a front-loaded schedule yet. But tangible results are starting to show from a healthier squad that can now conduct competitive practices with a full roster.
“We’re getting contributions from a lot of people,” Johnson said. “So right now, we’re playing pretty solid. Our assist-to-turnover ratio is pretty good. We’ve only been out-rebounded once, and it didn’t come back to bite us. We’re continuing to grind, continuing to improve.”
The Frogs are showing a deep roster. Four players have led the team in scoring, and four have led in rebounding. Top scorer Kyan Anderson was in foul trouble for much of the two games in Corpus Christi, but freshman guard Chauncey Collins stepped in and ran the point against Mississippi State.
Even after shooting poorly in Corpus, the Frogs are making 49 percent of their shots. Eight players are averaging 6.7 points or better. They are winning in rebounds 39.7 to 30.9.
“The reason we’re winning is because we’re doing a better job of taking care of the ball, we’re doing a better job of rebounding the ball, we’re doing a better job at decisions, and our percentages are up in terms of shooting the ball from the field,” Johnson said. “The one thing that we can improve, and we made some strides in that regard, is free throws.”
The Horned Frogs got a boost with the return of senior forward Amric Fields. He has shot 53 percent in three games, averaging 7.7 points. He should provide rebounding help, also, but he missed a practice this week with a sore shoulder.
This is the Frogs’ best start since 1997, when they started 9-0 and advanced to the 1998 NCAA tournament.
Thursday night, the Frogs take on a 5-1 Ole Miss team that is coming off wins against Creighton and Cincinnati in a holiday event. Mississippi State was 5-0 going into the TCU game.
That was the best team the Frogs had played this year, and their confidence appears to be building.
“Winning helps, and the reason we’re winning is because we’re healthy, we’re able to have competitive practices, we have a little balance, we have a little depth,” Johnson said. “In each game, you move forward. It gets a little tougher. Once we continue to stay the course and do the things that we’re capable of doing and stay together, things will be fine.”