As milestones go, TCU men’s basketball coach Jamie Dixon has had plenty of four-game winning streaks in his career.
But none of the others have allowed him to post the fastest start to any coaching tenure at his alma mater. That is the bottom line to Monday’s 80-71 triumph over Illinois State at Schollmaier Arena, a victory secured by a 9-0 closing run over the final 42 seconds on a night when the Horned Frogs (4-0) spent more time trailing than leading.
Forward Vladimir Brodziansky came off the bench to score a career-high 24 points and freshman point guard Jaylen Fisher buried the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 42 seconds to play that triggered the Frogs’ decisive closing surge.
For Dixon, a former TCU player who spent the last 13 seasons at Pittsburgh, the script could not have unfolded any better on the way to posting the first 4-0 start by any TCU coach during his debut season.
Until Monday, the fastest start by a first-year coach at TCU had been 3-0, posted by Billy Tubbs (1994-95), Moe Iba (1987-88) and Matty Bell (1923-24).
“It’s been fun because the team is making great progress,” Dixon said. “The attitude’s been really good. I think our crowds have gotten better as the play has gotten better. That’s why we’re here. We’re trying to bring excitement to the basketball program, and you can feel it building. You can see it happening.”
That’s huge for us. They’re ranked way higher than we are at the moment ... For us to come together as a unit and have energy from the bench and everyone in the stands was great for us.
TCU point guard Alex Robinson, on the comeback win
Down the stretch, there were few quiet voices or seated individuals among the announced crowd of 5,938. The Frogs fed off that energy while taking down the Redbirds (1-2), a team picked to finish second in the Missouri Valley Conference behind perennial power Wichita State.
“That’s huge for us. They’re ranked way higher than we are at the moment,” said point guard Alex Robinson, a Mansfield Timberview graduate and Texas A&M transfer who contributed 14 points and a team-high six assists. “So this is huge for us as a team. For us to come together as a unit and have energy from the bench and everyone in the stands was great for us.”
TCU put itself in position for the comeback behind the third career double-double by Kenrich Williams (13 points, 10 rebounds) and Brodzianksy’s 16 second-half points.
At one point, Brodziansky scored 11 consecutive points and 15 of 18 while helping TCU erase a 36-31 halftime deficit. Included were lots of attempts from the low post, helping TCU finish with a 34-18 edge on points in the paint. The Frogs’ bench also outscored ISU’s bench 43-19.
“My teammates kept finding me in great spots and we executed our plays,” Brodziansky said. “I was always close to the basket, so it was an easy job to finish it.”
But in terms of finishing the game, the Frogs faced a challenge because ISU hit 10 of 25 shots from behind the arc (40 percent), including 3 of 5 by forward MiKyle McIntosh (20 points, nine rebounds). TCU never led by more than three points until the final minute, and the closing surge began with Fisher’s 3-pointer to break a 71-71 tie.
That’s why we’re here. We’re trying to bring excitement to the basketball program and you can feel it building. You can see it happening.
TCU men’s basketball coach Jamie Dixon
“That was a huge energy boost,” Robinson said. “The stands went crazy. The bench went crazy. That helped us pull this together.”
TCU followed with a defensive stop and a pair of free throws from Brandon Parrish. A McIntosh turnover led to two free throws by Robinson. Fisher added two more to complete a second half in which TCU made 14 of 15 from the line.
“It was just the kind of game we needed. We played poorly in the first half, then respond to get a good win in the second half,” Dixon said. “You couldn’t have drawn it up any better.”
The 4-0 start, fastest ever by a first-year coach at TCU, adds a bit of luster as well.
ILLINOIS ST. (1-2)—Hawkins 3-8 1-1 8, McIntosh 6-13 5-5 20, Fayne 3-4 2-2 8, Lee 4-8 3-4 13, Wills 0-3 3-4 3, Washington 0-0 0-0 0, Ma.Williams 0-0 0-0 0, Clayton 4-7 3-6 13, Evans 2-8 0-0 6. Totals 22-51 17-22 71.
TCU (4-0)—Shepherd 1-3 0-2 2, Miller 2-3 1-2 5, K.Williams 5-12 2-2 13, Fisher 4-13 4-4 15, Bane 1-2 0-0 2, Brodziansky 7-8 10-13 24, B.Parrish 1-4 2-2 5, Trent 0-3 0-0 0, Robinson 5-8 3-5 14. Totals 26-56 22-30 80.
Halftime—Illinois St. 36-31. 3-Point Goals—Illinois St. 10-25 (McIntosh 3-5, Clayton 2-4, Lee 2-4, Evans 2-7, Hawkins 1-4, Wills 0-1), TCU 6-14 (Fisher 3-6, Robinson 1-1, B.Parrish 1-2, K.Williams 1-3, Trent 0-1, Miller 0-1). Fouled Out—Hawkins, Wills. Rebounds—Illinois St. 27 (McIntosh 9), TCU 33 (K.Williams 10). Assists—Illinois St. 17 (Lee 7), TCU 20 (Robinson 6). Total Fouls—Illinois St. 24, TCU 19. A—5,938 (7,201).