Kouat Noi’s career day lifts TCU past Eastern Michigan on day Frogs fell out of rankings

TCU stars Kouat Noi, Jaylen Fisher discuss win over Eastern Michigan

TCU's Kouat Noi had a career-high 27 points, and guard Jaylen Fisher provided a much-needed spark off the bench. TCU improved to 4-1 on the season.
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TCU's Kouat Noi had a career-high 27 points, and guard Jaylen Fisher provided a much-needed spark off the bench. TCU improved to 4-1 on the season.

Jaylen Fisher provided a much-needed spark off the bench. Kouat Noi had a career night scoring the ball. And Kevin Samuel continues to establish himself as an inside presence.

Monday didn’t bring the best news for the TCU’s men’s basketball team, falling out of the Top 25 rankings, but returning to game action with two contributors healthy and ready to go made the day much better.

TCU finally showed an offensive pulse with its best scoring night of the season, rolling to an 87-69 victory over Eastern Michigan of the Mid-American Conference at Schollmaier Arena.

“My first day back with some major minutes, Kouat with a career high … what more could you ask for?” Fisher said.

Oh, and Fisher added that he and his teammates are using the rankings snub as motivation for now.

“I actually like it,” Fisher said, “because when Big 12 play starts, we’re going to wake everybody up.”

Credit deserves to go to Fisher and Noi who were playing in just their second games of the season after nursing knee injuries early on.

Fisher scored all 12 of his points on 3-pointers, including three 3s in the first half. Noi finished with 27 points, including 22 in the second half.

The game didn’t get off to the most promising start with TCU trailing 11-2 at the 13:02 mark. The Frogs endured a 7:13 scoring drought early on before finally finding a rhythm against the Eagles’ 3-2 zone defense.

TCU went on a 15-2 run to take a 19-15 lead by the 6:55 mark of the opening half, including a pair of 3-pointers by Fisher during the run.

Fisher, who didn’t score in seven minutes of first-half action in the Lipscomb loss, doubled his playing time in the opening half by playing 14 minutes. He scored a team-leading nine points – all on 3-pointers – in the opening half as TCU built a 35-24 lead.

Fisher, who is returning from a knee injury that cut his sophomore season short last January, played 31 minutes on the night.

“I just felt like that’s what the team needed then, just a spark off the bench,” Fisher said. “It was just a blessing for me to come in and do that.”

As far as his knee, Fisher said: “It’s not 100 percent, but it’s going to get there.”

Fisher starred in the opening half. Noi then shined in the second half by going 9-for-11 from the field.

Noi had a nice bounce back game after going 1-for-7 against Lipscomb in his first game of the season.

“Honestly, I’m always comfortable shooting the ball no matter what, but it was a good game today,” Noi said. “I give all the credit to my teammates for finding me when I was open.”

With Fisher and Noi healthy and making shots, and Samuel scoring 15 points in the post, the Frogs looked like the team most expected going into the season.

Despite the sluggish start, TCU scored 52 points in the second half. This is a team that entered the game with the Big 12’s worst scoring offense through the first three weeks of the season (71.5 points a game).

“I thought our attack against the zone was pretty good,” Dixon said. “We made some adjustments. We wound up going with a different look than we anticipated going in. We had three or four looks we wanted to use and wound up going with our fifth, and that was the best one for us. A little more movement.

“It gave us an ability to get some interior touches. JD [Miller] and Kouat were very good in the middle of the zone.

“We’ll see how it carries over into our next one. We’ll see more man-to-man in that. It’s a good step for us. We’ve been better in practice. We’ll get there. It’s just playing with each other. Trying to get them to understand the games can be different [from practice] too. You have to make adjustments.”

TCU will look to take more steps forward when it hosts Central Michigan on Friday. Eventually those steps may lead the Frogs back into the Top 25.

“We didn’t deserve to be in the rankings just based on what I’ve seen in practice; this was no surprise to me [dropping out],” Dixon said. “I don’t know who deserves to be in the rankings just based on having five guys returning and two of them weren’t even playing. It is what it is and we put ourselves in this position; one game won’t kill us.

“Rankings is the last thing we should be worried about right now. We’ve got to understand what we got to get better at and where our deficiencies are and that’s part of what I got to get across to them.”

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