For the first time under first-year men’s basketball coach Jamie Dixon, TCU got an extended taste of adversity Friday night against Jacksonville State.
The Horned Frogs played without forward J.D. Miller, a starter in the team’s first two games who served a one-game suspension for what Dixon described as a violation of team rules. TCU also found itself in a tight contest until the middle of the second half for the first time this season.
But the Frogs leaned on a group of veterans led by Brandon Parrish, a senior from Arlington Seguin who scored a season-high 20 points in place of Miller, to put away the Gamecocks 79-60 at Schollmaier Arena.
Parrish, the only Frog to start all 33 games last season, buried 8 of 11 shots from the field in his first start under Dixon to help TCU (3-0) remain undefeated on a night when three players scored in double digits and the Frogs committed a season-low eight turnovers.
TCU broke open an 11-point game during the final 8:56 against the Gamecocks (1-3), who have lost three straight after a season-opening victory at Tulsa, 84-73, on Nov. 11.
“My teammates, they trust me to shoot the ball really well,” Parrish said. “I just want to be that life, that energy, whenever I come off the bench or whenever I’m in the game, so we can have a spark out there.”
Parrish said he learned earlier Friday that he would be in the lineup in lieu of Miller, who averaged 13.5 points in TCU’s first two games. Dixon did not offer specifics regarding Miller’s situation beyond saying Miller, who watched the game in street clothes on the TCU bench, would return for Monday’s game against Illinois State.
“He made a mistake. We got that addressed,” Dixon said. “And we’re getting that fixed.”
TCU also seems well on the way to fixing an offense that was inconsistent much of last season but connected on at least 50 percent of its shots for the second consecutive game, including a 57.7 rate during a second-half surge.
For the first time in 20 months, TCU’s list of contributors included guard Kenrich Williams, a junior who missed last season because of a knee injury. Williams, who underwent microfracture knee surgery in September, 2015, came off the bench to add nine points in 20 minutes in his first action since the 2015 Big 12 tournament in Kansas City, Mo.
The junior from Waco entered the game at the 16:36 mark of the first half, buried both 3-point shots he took and earned praise from Dixon after a 3-for-6 night from the field.
“His shooting’s improved a lot,” Dixon said. “The improvement in his range has been dramatic. We haven’t seen the best of Kenrich, that’s for sure.”
Another returnee from a recent ankle injury, guard Michael Williams, did not score but added two rebounds in his season debut. TCU relied on its superior depth to pull away in the second half after Jacksonville State cut the Frogs’ 36-31 halftime lead to one point, 36-35, in the opening minute of the second half.
At that point, Parrish hit back-to-back 3-pointers on called plays to extend the lead and return the momentum to TCU for the remainder of the game. TCU also limited itself to three second-half turnovers, a point of emphasis in recent practices.
“We have a goal to be under 10 turnovers a game and we got that today,” said point guard Alex Robinson, a Mansfield Timberview graduate and transfer from Texas A&M. “That’s a big step for us in the right direction. That’s huge.”
Dixon agreed, after watching the Frogs commit 14 and 17 turnovers in their first two contests.
“I feel like it’s starting to come together here, piece by piece,” Dixon said. “The defense has got to get better. But the energy’s good. The attitude’s good.”
And the record remains unblemished despite Friday’s first taste of adversity this season. TCU’s next game is Monday against Illinois State (5 p.m., Schollmaier Arena).
JACKSONVILLE ST. (1-3)—Cunningham 2-5 1-2 5, Giga 4-9 2-4 11, Drumwright 7-12 2-2 19, Durham 3-6 2-2 11, Tucker 1-7 0-0 2, Cross 1-5 1-2 3, Edwards 0-1 0-0 0, Jones 0-0 0-0 0, Green 1-1 1-2 4, Statam 2-2 0-0 5. Totals 21-48 9-14 60.
TCU (3-0)—Shepherd 2-8 2-2 6, Bane 6-9 1-1 14, Fisher 2-5 0-0 5, Trent 1-2 0-1 3, B.Parrish 8-11 0-0 20, Washburn 1-1 2-4 4, Brodziansky 2-5 4-4 8, M.Williams 0-1 0-0 0, K.Williams 3-6 1-3 9, Robinson 3-8 2-4 10. Totals 28-56 12-19 79.
Halftime—TCU 36-31. 3-Point Goals—Jacksonville St. 9-21 (Drumwright 3-6, Durham 3-6, Green 1-1, Statam 1-1, Giga 1-3, Tucker 0-4), TCU 11-21 (B.Parrish 4-6, K.Williams 2-2, Robinson 2-4, Trent 1-1, Bane 1-3, Fisher 1-3, M.Williams 0-1, Brodziansky 0-1). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Jacksonville St. 24 (Durham, Giga 8), TCU 32 (Bane 7). Assists—Jacksonville St. 15 (Drumwright, Durham, Tucker, Giga 3), TCU 16 (Robinson 5). Total Fouls—Jacksonville St. 19, TCU 15.