December 28, 2014

TCU has achieved two significant accomplishments already this season, but coach Trent Johnson knows his program has other steps to take before it's completed its resurgence.

Johnson will try to help the No. 25 Horned Frogs make another with their first perfect finish to a non-conference schedule in 81 seasons Monday night against struggling Tennessee State.

TCU (12-0) is easily off to its best start in program history in Johnson's third season at the school, surpassing its nine straight wins to open 1997-98 - which was also the last time it reached the NCAA tournament. The Horned Frogs played for the first time as a ranked team since January 1999 on Tuesday and had little trouble with visiting Grambling State, winning 80-39.

"Number one, we are deeper. Two, we are healthy. We are also getting the leadership from Kyan (Anderson) and Devonta (Abron), who has worked hard in practice," Johnson said. "We are getting contributions from a lot of people, but we have a long way to go. It's only 12 games in."

The chance to make greater strides is coming in Big 12 play, where TCU is 2-34 in two seasons since joining the league. The Horned Frogs, who open their conference slate at home versus West Virginia on Saturday, went 0-18 in 2013-14.

"When this thing is built, is when we're having a conversation that we're in multiple NCAA tournaments - four out of five years, five out of six years," said Johnson, who has also taken Nevada, Stanford and LSU to the NCAA tournament. ''That's when it's a finished product."

First, the Horned Frogs will try to head into a conference season unbeaten for the first time since 1933-34. They won just three non-conference contests in that 15-game season so this feat is more impressive.

TCU could enter the Big 12 season with one of the league's stingiest defenses after the visit from Tennessee State (2-11). It's already among the national leaders in allowing 54.1 points per game on 34.0 percent shooting.

The Horned Frogs gave up an average of 65.8 points in last season's non-conference slate and 72.5 overall. They've also bumped their scoring average to 76.5 points after registering 63.6 per game in 2013-14 as more players are making contributions.

Anderson was last season's leading scorer with a career-best 17.0 points per contest but that's decreased to 13.2 as TCU has seven players averaging at least 7.0 points. That's an increase from five players last season, a total that included Amric Fields - who played only 18 games due to injuries.

Averaging 58.7 points, Tennessee State is one of the lowest-scoring teams in the country. The Tigers, who have yet to beat a Division I opponent, have put up 52.4 per game during their 10 consecutive losses.

Jay Harris and Marcus Roper, each averaging a team-best 11.4 points, were the only players in double figures in a 67-46 loss at Tennessee on Saturday.

This is TCU's first matchup with Tennessee State.

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