LAS VEGAS (AP) — With TCU leading by 17 and less than a minute left in Tuesday night’s consolation game of the MGM Resorts Main Event against Wyoming, Jaire Grayer dove for a ball near the baseline and quickly passed to teammate Desmond Bane, who then pushed the transition game.
It’s a mindset coach Jamie Dixon said has taken time, but it’s the process he continues to instill in his Horned Frogs before Big 12 play begins in January.
“That’s a championship mentality – 40 minutes no matter who’s in there, no matter the scoreboard,” team leader Bane said.
The process is working.
Bane had 22 points and 11 rebounds to lead TCU to a 64-47 victory over Wyoming in a game in which the Horned Frogs never trailed.
It was Bane’s second double-double of the season, both in Main Event, and third of his career. The preseason all-Big 12 selection shot 8 of 14 from the field, including four made from 3-point range.
PJ Fuller chipped in with 11 points for the Horned Frogs.
“I thought we came out and played very hard early, I was excited about how we came out and did some things,” Dixon said. “We came out with good intensity, good focus. Not that we played great offensively, but we did what we wanted to do.”
TCU (5-1) came out firing, hitting 8 of 13 from the field – including five from 3-point range – during a 19-5 run that opened a 21-7 lead by the midway point of the first half.
It was no surprise, considering the Horned Frogs were looking to avenge their first loss of the season on Sunday, when Clemson erased a 15-point deficit to force overtime, then advance to the championship with the victory.
Since opening the season with an average of 81 points in three games, the Horned Frogs have averaged 61.7 in their last three.
“We’ve got to get our offense flowing a little better than that, but I liked our pace in which we played,” Dixon said. “I thought it was a good response to a heartbreaking loss and a good sign of us going forward.”
Jake Hendricks had 14 points and six rebounds for Wyoming, while Hunter Maldonado had 13 points and seven rebounds.
The Cowboys cut TCU’s lead to 13 early in the second half, but the Horned Frogs outmuscled Wyoming and built their lead to 24 when Fuller drained a 3-pointer with 5:55 left in the game.
The Horned Frogs hit 42.4 percent (25 of 59) of their shots and got 10 points off 14 Wyoming turnovers.
“We have to get better on defense, when we are a good defensive team it leads to our offense,” Hendricks said. “We gotta get a little bit tougher. We kind of lack a little bit of toughness, especially in tonight’s game. We’ve got to learn how to be tough and be better on the defensive end and being more physical and playing through contact.”
TCU, which came in ranked 13th in the nation with 10.6 3-pointers made per game, finished by hitting 9 of 26 (34.6 percent) from long-range. The Horned Frogs were 12-for-27 (44.4 percent) from the field in the first half.
Wyoming (3-5) struggled to find its offense from the opening tip, missing its first five shots and 16 of its first 18. The Cowboys shot a bleak 17.9 percent (5-for-28) in the first half, including 2 of 11 (18.2 percent) from beyond the arc.
“I think this is a team that is going to continue to improve,” Dixon said. “They’re working hard. We’ve had to teach some guys to take charges, loose balls – it’s been a process. You’d like to have guys come in ready to do it. I thought our energy was good on the bench and all throughout the team, even with the big lead.”
Wyoming: After a combined 11-for-51 (21.5 percent) in its two MGM Resorts Main Event games, against Colorado and TCU, the Cowboys saw their first-half shooting percentage drop from 42.3 percent (61-for-144), to 36.9 percent (72-for-195).
TCU: After committing a season-high 21 turnovers against Clemson in the semifinals, the Horned Frogs, along with Bane, committed a season-low nine turnovers against Wyoming.
Wyoming: The Cowboys open Mountain West Conference play by hosting Air Force on Dec. 4.
TCU: The Horned Frogs continue their non-conference slate by opening a three-game home stand against Illinois State on Dec. 3.
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