It marked the first time Lipscomb had beaten a ranked opponent in its program’s history, and TCU plummeted from No. 18 to out of the Top 25 afterward.
But the Frogs have responded with impressive wins over Eastern Michigan by 18 points and Central Michigan by 27 points. Those were nice wins, but not enough to push them back in the Top 25.
TCU received only nine votes in the latest Associated Press’ Top 25 poll. This week, though, the Frogs have an opportunity to make more of a statement with two significant games.
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TCU plays its first road game of the season at SMU at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, and then will travel to Los Angeles for a “neutral site” game against USC at the Staples Center on Friday.
For now, TCU is focused on its rivalry game with SMU.
“They’re definitely going to give us their best shot,” said senior point guard Alex Robinson, a Mansfield Timberview product. “It’s a huge game. Huge rivalry game, bragging rights in DFW area. We’re going to take this game extremely serious and we’re going to bring it to them as well.”
TCU hosted last year’s matchup, pulling away for a 94-83 victory. Before that, SMU had won five straight and owns the all-time series record 106-86.
It’s a new year with new players, of course, and TCU seems to be trending in the right direction. The past two games have really shown what a healthy Jaylen Fisher and Kouat Noi means for the team.
Fisher and Noi didn’t play early on, recovering from knee injuries, and didn’t look like themselves in their debuts against Lipscomb. Fisher played only seven minutes in the first half, and Noi was just 1-for-7 from the field.
In the end, Lipscomb was the more physical, more disciplined team in a 73-64 victory. As stated, that loss dropped TCU from the rankings and it’s served as motivation since.
This is a TCU team that started the season with only three players on the floor who had previous college playing experience.
“We’re a pretty young team. For us older guys, we had to earn our way to become Top 25 and we know the importance of having that number on the side of TCU’s name,” Robinson said. “For them [the younger players] to experience that loss and have that number taken away, it helps our whole team that we can’t take stuff like that for granted.”
That starts with SMU (6-3) that has gotten off to a slow start itself. Much like TCU working Fisher and Noi back into game action, SMU is taking a similar approach with forward Jarrey Foster.
Foster, an NBA prospect who tore his ACL on Jan. 17 last season, didn’t play the first six games this season. But he has seen his playing time steadily increase the past three games, playing a season-high 28 minutes in SMU’s win over Oral Roberts on Sunday.
“They are similar to us as far as fitting a guy in they were counting on in Foster who wasn’t playing early and is now back,” TCU coach Jamie Dixon said. “He took a game or two to get acclimated and them getting used to him and him getting used to playing in game-conditions.”
Dixon also noted that SMU has skilled big guys who can play on the perimeter and inside such as Ethan Chargois and Isiaha Mike.
All will present challenges for TCU to contain. But the Frogs are almost back to full strength with Fisher and Noi healthy, although freshman forward Lat Mayen is still dealing with a bone bruise in his knee.
Fisher and Noi have been difference-makers, and Dixon praised what Fisher brings whenever he’s on the floor.
“He cuts so hard and spaces the floor with his movement. That’s something we realized while he was out, he’s made our offensive better without shooting at a high, high percentage,” Dixon said. “He has a real good understanding of where other guys on the floor are at. He’s one of our best guys at playing without the ball. His cuts and his movement, that’s what makes us better with him.”