The immediate beneficiary Wednesday of the extra minutes with the ball in his hands — minutes he had been sharing with Jaylen Fisher — was Alex Robinson, the former Mansfield Timberview star.
He dished out 17 assists, a single-game TCU men’s record and the record for a Big 12 game, as the No. 24 Horned Frogs rolled past Iowa State to snap a three-game losing streak and win their first game after learning Fisher would miss the rest of the season.
Fisher was injured Tuesday during practice and underwent season-ending surgery Thursday to repair a damaged meniscus in his right knee. He needs as many as four months to recover.
Though Fisher didn’t seem to be missed during the 96-73 victory, he was, of course. Adjustments had to be made, and more have been considered ahead of the Frogs’ game Saturday at upset-minded Kansas State at 3 p.m.
Of all that coach Jamie Dixon said the Frogs need to do going forward, not just because Fisher is out but also to survive the Big 12, the primary one comes as the result of several others.
“We’ve got to come up with more possessions,” he said.
The benefit of more possessions doesn’t need to be explained, right? (More possessions means more chances to score points and fewer chances for the opponent to do so.)
The Frogs can start here: Better defense, better rebounding, fewer turnovers.
Dixon said that the Frogs have improved on D. Their transition defense has been better, and they have started showing more full-court pressure. But Dixon believes the best defensive teams are the teams that rotate the most players.
To that end, he made substitutions early and often against Iowa State with the Frogs down to eight scholarship players. Shawn Olden, a junior-college transfer, played 20 minutes against Iowa State after not playing last weekend at Oklahoma and only 18 minutes in the first four conference games.
“He moves well without the ball, but he spaces, he cuts hard, he reverses the basketball, and they have to guard him because they know he can shoot,” Dixon said. “He brings a lot of energy on defense. We just need him to be a little bit better defensively, like all our guys.”
TCU remains undecided about the status of freshman R.J. Nembhard. The former Keller High star was ticketed to redshirt and still might as he is now nursing an ankle injury that has limited his practice time.
With one fewer scholarship body, TCU must avoid foul trouble and take care of the ball. They did both Wednesday, but Dixon said it was the first time in conference play that they weren’t plagued by too many whistles.
He doesn’t want the Frogs to change the way they play defense or hit the boards. Their rebounding hasn’t been bad, with an average per-game margin of plus-6.8, but second-chance opportunities helped Texas and Oklahoma in overtime victories last week.
There’s that possessions things again.
The Frogs, though, aren’t turning the ball over nearly as much as they were earlier in the season. They had a season-low four turnovers against Iowa State and are averaging 9.9 over their past nine games.
“Early in the year we were very high in turnovers, and that was disappointing,” Dixon said. “We did some drills, we talked about some things, and we’ve set some goals. We want to have 10 and below. That’s a really hard number to get to — that will lead the country — but we’re heading in the right direction.”
The good news for the Frogs is they played well without Fisher during their run to the NIT title. He broke his left thumb in their NIT opener, leaving Robinson to carry the point guard load the rest of the way.
For one game, he appeared up to the task again. But Fisher will be missed, and the Frogs have things they need to do with him watching from the bench the rest of the season.
No. 24 TCU at Kansas State
3 p.m., Saturday, ESPNU