He told the players afterward: “The dummy that called the zone defense takes the blame for that one.”
Dixon joked that only three players got the joke and could identify the “dummy.” Those three players were the same ones who had college experience going into the Frogs’ season-opener.
Yes, TCU opened its season with just three players with prior college experience.
“The new guys didn’t know who I was talking about,” Dixon said, smiling. “So, again, we’re learning in many ways. Many ways.”
In the end, TCU prevailed with a 66-61 victory, overcoming an 11-point deficit early in the second half.
It’s only one game and two significant contributors -- Jaylen Fisher and Kouat Noi -- were sidelined with injuries, but here’s what we learned about the team after the opener.
TCU is ranked No. 20 in the preseason polls and were an NCAA Tournament team a season ago. So teams such as CSU Bakersfield are going to have a little extra motivation going against TCU.
The Frogs are going to get everyone’s best shot.
As CSU Bakersfield coach Rod Barnes said afterward, “We had a lot of guys, this is their first time being in a game like this, you just don’t know, you believe. I think our effort and our play today was a program game, I think our program just what we’ve done over the last four or five years brought us here with confidence, and guys that have been around, just believing that we can play Power Five conference caliber teams.
“I had concern coming in what it was going to look like, but I’m proud just the way our guys played.”
TCU understands how its viewed now, too. Wednesday is just the first time it’s happened for a lot of the players.
“It’s new for all of us,” senior point guard Alex Robinson said. “Being prepared that everybody’s going to come out and give us their best shot.”
TCU had three players end up in double-figures with Desmond Bane leading the way with 14 points followed by JD Miller (13) and Alex Robinson (12).
But the offense struggled early on, shooting just 37 percent from the field (10-for-27) in the first half. The 3-point ball wouldn’t fall all night, either, as the Frogs finished 3-for-16.
It’s just the first game, but TCU has room to grow on the offensive side. The 66 points are well below the Frogs’ average of 82.1 points a season ago.
Bane and Robinson had success in the second half driving to the basket. Bane, in fact, scored nine of his points in the final seven minutes, either getting to the rim or drawing fouls.
“He’s a good finisher at the rim,” Dixon said of Bane.
Getting Fisher and Noi back will help, and so will knocking off the early-season rust and getting the inexperienced players more experience.
“We’re in a process and we’re going to keep getting better,” Dixon said. “We got better from first half to second half. We defended and won with defense. We didn’t make any shots obviously.”
As stated, the zone defense didn’t do too well for the Frogs on Wednesday. Dixon realized that immediately.
“We’re going to be a man-to-man defensive team,” Dixon said. “We’re going to get better with that and that’s going to be our calling card. We’re going to keep working on it.”
That’s music to these ears. Yours truly typically puts “gimmicky” and “zone defense” in the same sentence.
Zone defenses serve a purpose if a team is trying to change the pace of the game, or give a new look, but the default should be man-to-man.
TCU’s defense shined in the second half, holding CSU Bakersfield to 24 percent shooting from the field.
For the game, TCU won the rebounding battle, 39-29, led by Bane’s 10.
“We defended and won with defense,” Dixon said.
“Everybody is going to look that we weren’t that good. Maybe today we weren’t, but we are going to be very good.” -- Dixon