Balanced second-half run powers TCU past Fresno State

TCU guard Desmond Bane (1), who scored a team-high 23 points, shoots in front of Fresno State guard  Braxton Huggins (4) during the first half of the Horned Frogs’ victory Thursday night.
TCU guard Desmond Bane (1), who scored a team-high 23 points, shoots in front of Fresno State guard Braxton Huggins (4) during the first half of the Horned Frogs’ victory Thursday night. Special to the Star-Telegram

An early second-half run helped TCU overcome a halftime deficit and stay undefeated in this young college basketball season.

TCU, ranked No. 21 in The Associated Press poll, knocked off Fresno State 77-69 on Thursday night at Schollmaier Arena with standout performances from multiple players.

Desmond Bane scored a team-high 23 points, and a couple players posted double-doubles. Kevin Samuel finished with a career-high 14 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks, and Alex Robinson had 13 points and 14 assists. The six blocks by Samuel were the most in program history since Marlon Dumont had six in 2002 vs. Southern Miss.

JD Miller added 14 points too.

“The second half we just talked about ball movement and getting more touches inside,” coach Jamie Dixon said. “It was a good win for us and they’ll be a high RPI team. They’ll be at the top of the Mountain West. … We’ve got to get better.”

TCU pulled away with a 13-3 run early in the second half, extending a 39-37 lead to 52-40 in less than five minutes.

Asked about the run, Robinson said: “I just wanted to make sure we kept our intensity up. That’s been our problem the past two games.”

The run featured contributions from just about everyone on the floor.

Samuel had a pair of layups, Miller drained a 3-pointer and had another 2-pointer, Robinson scored on a layup and Bane capped it off with a fast-break dunk.

The dunk was a picture-perfect transition play.

Miller grabbed the rebound and wasted no time getting the ball out to a streaking Robinson at midcourt. Robinson threw it to Bane hustling down the near sideline, and Bane finished it off with a strong move to the basket.

“When we have three on two running, that’s kind of happened a few times where Rob hits me and I’m able to finish,” Bane said. “We just get out and run. We trust in A-Rob to make the right decision on the break. It just so happened to be my turn. You saw later in the game JD got one, so everybody is getting some love.”

Until that run, Fresno State had stayed within striking distance.

The Bulldogs led 31-29 at halftime after draining five 3-pointers in the opening half, and limiting the Frogs to shooting just 35.7 percent from the field.

But TCU started the second half strong with Robinson knocking down a shot and then going on the aforementioned run.

Fresno State pulled within six a couple times down the stretch, but TCU responded each time.

With 7:21 left, Fresno State’s New Williams drained a 3-pointer to make it 61-55, but TCU answered 19 seconds later to regain a three-possession lead on a dunk by Samuel.

With 2:08 left, Fresno State’s Deshon Taylor completed a three-point play to make it 71-65. Again, TCU answered with a layup by Bane.

TCU hung on the rest of the way, including a game-sealing dunk by Miller with 14 seconds left.

The Frogs improved to 17-0 in November under Dixon. They went 7-0 in each of his first two seasons, and are now off to a 3-0 start.

TCU has done it without two of its top returners, too, as junior guard Jaylen Fisher and sophomore forward Kouat Noi remain sidelined with knee injuries.

Fisher will be eased back into game action following a meniscus injury last January that ended his sophomore season, and arthroscopic surgery on the same knee (right) in September. Fisher, who averaged 12.3 points in 17 games last season, has been progressing in practice.

Noi is dealing with a knee injury that is not considered serious. He averaged 10.2 points a game last season.

On the positive injury news front, freshman forward Lat Mayen played in the Fresno State game, scoring his first career points to tie the game at 15-15 in the first half.

Mayen has been battling a left knee injury, and saw just six minutes in the season-opener against CSU Bakersfield.

TCU’s next game is against Lipscomb on Tuesday. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. at Schollmaier Arena.

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