No. 15 TCU beats William & Mary for record 17th straight win
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Since he’s from Fort Worth, Alex Robinson knows a couple of players from the previous TCU team to take a perfect record into Big 12 play.
The expectations were different a few years ago because the Horned Frogs were coming off a winless conference season. Robinson and crew just won the NIT, and have kept it going with a school-record 17 straight wins.
Robinson scored a season-high 23 points, Jaylen Fisher had 17 of his career-best 21 points after halftime and the 15th-ranked Horned Frogs extended the nation’s longest winning streak, beating William & Mary 86-75 in their final Big 12 tuneup Friday night.
“I think this is a whole different situation,” said Robinson, a junior in his second season after transferring from Texas A&M. “I don’t know how they were, but I know right now we’re a huge family. We push each other every day. I think we’ll be in great shape.”
Playing without leading scorer and rebounder Kenrich Williams because of a knee injury, TCU (12-0) went unbeaten before Big 12 play for the second time in four seasons. The winning streak includes the last five games of last season in the NIT.
The Horned Frogs broke the previous school record of 16 straight wins under Billy Tubbs in 1997-98, the last time they made the NCAA Tournament. TCU’s ranking is its highest since that season.
Although the Horned Frogs started 13-0 in 2014-15, they weren’t expected to contend in the Big 12 because of their 0-18 conference record the previous season. They went 4-14 in league play, the only time they didn’t finish last in the Big 12 in four seasons under Trent Johnson.
Expectations have changed under second-year coach Jamie Dixon, a player on the last TCU team to win an NCAA Tournament game in 1986-87.
“Everybody’s kind of talking about us in a different light to where we’re picked and where we’re ranked,” Dixon said. “I think we’re good. I know we can be better.”
A couple of weeks after losing by 35 at Ohio State, the Tribe (7-4) were within two points with 6 1/2 minutes left. Among the nation’s most accurate teams from 3-point range, William & Mary used that weapon to stay close.
Matt Milon was 6 of 11 from long range and scored 22 points as the Tribe went 15 of 38 from long range.
Connor Burchfield, the active NCAA leader in career 3-point accuracy coming into the game, scored 18 and was 4 of 7 beyond the arc, including two that helped cut a 10-point lead to five in less than a minute in the second half.
“We didn’t come here to scare them,” said coach Tony Shaver, who just picked up his 200th win at William & Mary. “We came here to win the ballgame.”
Fisher was 3 of 3 from long range after halftime, including one right after William & Mary had pulled within 70-68. Fisher and Robinson were a combined 17 of 27 from the field as TCU shot 62 percent, including 72 percent in the second half.
JD Miller scored 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting, Vladimir Brodziansky made all four of his shots to finish with 11 and Desmond Bane had 11 points and eight rebounds for TCU.
William & Mary: The Tribe were much more competitive in their second higher-profile matchup following the 97-62 loss at Ohio State on Dec. 9. William & Mary trailed by 18 at the half and by 28 early in the second half against the Buckeyes. They stayed with the Horned Frogs most of the way.
TCU: The Horned Frogs’ last loss was 84-63 to Iowa State in the semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament last season. Now they will see how much a fairly light nonconference schedule helps them in the rugged league. The first three conference opponents (Oklahoma, Baylor and Kansas) are currently ranked, and the two after that are on the road (Texas and the Sooners).
Dixon said Williams, who has six double-doubles and leads the team at 14.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, had discomfort and swelling in his injured knee Thursday. The coach said an MRI showed no serious damage, same as a previous test during the summer. The Horned Frogs have seven days off. “We feel like just some time will be good,” Dixon said.
William & Mary: Colonial Athletic Association opener at home against Hofstra on Dec. 30.
TCU: Big 12 opener at home against No. 17 Oklahoma on Dec. 30.
More AP college basketball: www.collegebasketball.ap.org