TCU men’s basketball coach Jamie Dixon caught himself.
He called his team a “work in progress” after the Horned Frogs held off Texas 65-61 Wednesday night at Schollmaier Arena.
Typically, a coach wouldn’t want to describe his team as such in the middle of its Big 12 Conference schedule and 18 games into the season. But that wasn’t stopping Dixon, who was energized by the win over the Longhorns that relied as much on the Horned Frogs’ defense and rebounding as it did on its league-leading offense.
“We’ve had so many changes, so many different things but where we’re at is pretty good,” said Dixon, whose team was sitting at No. 18 in the realtimerpi.com rankings.
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“We’re right there. But we’re a work in progress, which you don’t like to say at this point in the year. But in some ways I’m excited about it because I think we can really find some things, execute some things a little better.”
For one, Dixon said, he has a healthy team for the first time this season as Kouat Noi rejoined the starting lineup after a bout with the flu. Others, including Lat Mayen and Russell Barlow, both of whom played six minutes Wednesday, have Dixon seeing unbridled possibilities for improvement when the Frogs’ Big 12 schedule resumes next week at No. 14 Texas Tech.
TCU hosts Florida at 11 a.m. Saturday as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
“It’s the first time we’ve had our whole team and I had no guys out there limping,” Dixon said, only half-joking.
TCU, which led 35-31 at the half, relied on the play-making skills of Desmond Bane. He scored on two miraculous drives to the rim, including a reverse layup in which he spun the ball high off the backboard with less than four minutes remaining to give the Frogs an eight-point lead.
Bane led all scorers with 17 points. Noi had 15 points and 11 rebounds and Alex Robinson had seven assists and five points, including a big layup with 1:42 remaining to push the lead to five.
The offense, however, took a backseat to the defense, which helped forced 17 Longhorns turnovers and build a 42-33 rebounding advantage.
“We’ve been trying to find ways to get that rebounding, that defense going and find ways to win that way and that’s what we did tonight,” Dixon said. “So I’m excited about that.”
The Frogs, who have beaten the Longhorns four consecutive times, the most since winning seven straight from 1981-87, improved to 14-4 and 3-3 in the Big 12.
And Dixon sees reason to hope for more.
“I think we will and I’m excited about where we’re going,” he said. “It’s the first time I’ve felt like we were 100 percent with all of our guys. We’ve been right there and we’ve played the toughest of the tough [in the Big 12].
“We’re going to get better. In no way do I think we’re the team we’re going to be. We’re going to find a way and I’m excited about them going forward.”