Jaylen Fisher didn’t draw rim on a 3-point attempt in the first half against USC.
The tens of Trojans fans in attendance gave him a half-hearted “air ball” chant.
But Fisher and the Frogs got the last laugh, draining basket after basket in leading TCU to a dominant 96-61 victory over USC on Friday night at the Staples Center. The Frogs finished the night shooting 50 percent from the field.
“We’re playing good basketball right now and getting better,” TCU coach Jamie Dixon said. “I like where we’re at. I like where we are.”
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This is the best — and most impressive — win by TCU this season. The Frogs scored a season-high in points with six players getting in double figures, and beat a team projected to be a bubble team for the NCAA Tournament going into the season by 35 points.
USC went as far as calling the game against TCU a “must win” going into it.
After? USC coach Andy Enfield described it as “an embarrassing loss.”
USC is off to a 5-4 start and TCU (7-1) is looking more like the Top 25 team people expected in preseason rankings with wins over SMU and USC this week.
Fisher deserves a lot of credit in injecting life into a TCU team that didn’t get off to the most promising start. Fisher didn’t play in the first two games of the season, and saw just seven minutes of action in TCU’s loss to Lipscomb.
He’s back to being himself now, though.
“He’s huge for us,” senior point guard Alex Robinson said of Fisher. “He spreads the floor. He creates for others. He’s huge for our offense and defense.”
Fisher tied his career-high with five 3-pointers in the opening half, including one at the buzzer to give the Frogs a 46-26 lead going into the locker rooms.
Those 3-pointers meant Fisher had matched his season-high in points (15) in the first half. He had 15 points against SMU on Wednesday, knocking down four 3-pointers in the second half.
Combined with his second-half performance against SMU and his first half against USC, Fisher had made 9 of his last 12 shots from long range to push him over 50 percent for the season at the break.
“Man, I honestly don’t know where to to start,” Fisher said. “It’s just a blessing. I’ve just been feeling it.
“I really thank my teammates, man, they find me. They try their best to find me and keep me in a rhythm. It’s not like I’m trying to come out and force it. I just play the game and come out there and do what I do.”
Not too shabby, especially for a tripleheader event that had scouts from 25 NBA teams on hand. The Basketball Hall of Fame Classic featured three games with TCU-USC sandwiched between Saint Mary’s-New Mexico and Nevada-Arizona State.
TCU wasted no time spoiling the party for the “home” team whose campus is less than two miles away. The Frogs never trailed, taking a 3-0 lead on a 3-pointer by Fisher just 35 seconds into the game.
That became an 8-2 lead less than two minutes into the game when Robinson connected on a 3-pointer.
Robinson went on to record his 1,000th career point later in the half on a layup to put TCU up 28-17 with 8:39 left. Then the Frogs pulled away down the stretch.
TCU closed the first half on a 9-0 run. Senior forward JD Miller had an old-fashioned three-point play, and then Fisher hit two deep balls in a 50-second stretch.
Fisher didn’t score in the second half, finishing with 15 points. Robinson also had 15 points and eight assists, earning the game’s MVP honors. Miller and Kouat Noi each scored 14, and Desmond Bane (11 points) and Kevin Samuel (10 points, 13 rebounds) joined the double-figure group.
The Frogs got it done on the defensive end, too. USC entered the game averaging 80.5 points and tied its season-low in points (61).
TCU’s defense has been a bright spot early on this season, making a double-digit swing compared to last season. The Frogs are allowing just 64.5 points a game this season compared to 75.4 last season.
“Congrats to TCU,” Enfield said. “They played great and we played about as poorly as we could. That’s on me.”