Vladimir Brodziansky scored 16 points after TCU celebrated its NIT championship in a pre-game ring ceremony and the Horned Frogs held on to beat Louisiana-Monroe 83-73 in the opener Friday night.
Kenrich Williams had 13 points and game highs of 14 rebounds and seven assists on coach Jamie Dixon's 52nd birthday.
Dixon led his alma mater to the NIT title in his first season after spending his first 13 years as a head coach at Pittsburgh. TCU won for the eighth time in nine games going back to last season, including five NIT victories.
"We could have played better," Dixon said. "I thought we would have been a little better offensively and the same defensively, we're not there yet. We've got work to do."
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The Horned Frogs return their top six scorers from a 24-15 team, and four of them were in double figures. JD Miller and Desmond Bane scored 12 apiece. Point guard Jaylen Fisher had eight points and five assists.
Kouat Noi, a 6-foot-7 redshirt freshman forward from Australia, has 12 points and eight rebounds in 22 minutes in his TCU debut.
Sam McDaniel led ULM with 21 points, and Jordon Harris scored 16, going 4 of 5 from 3-point range.
The Warhawks didn't score after McDaniel made two free throws to get within 78-73 with 2:08 remaining. Brodziansky answered with a dunk on an assist from Alex Robinson, and Harris missed a jumper at the other end.
"I thought they played very well," Dixon said. "I thought they were more physical than I had seen on film. They banged us around a little bit and we didn't handle it well."
The only missing part of a strong all-around game for Williams was 3-point shooting. The senior guard-forward missed all five attempts to finish 5 of 14 overall. The Horned Frogs were just 6 of 20 from beyond the arc (30 percent).
Bane was the bright spot from 3, making two of three. Bane, Brodziansky and Miller combined to go 15 of 20 from the field, the biggest reason why the Horned Frogs finished at 49 percent.
Louisiana-Monroe: Travis Munnings, the leading returning scorer, matched last season's average with 13 points and led the Warhawks with nine rebounds. ULM was tied late in the first half in what surely feels like an uplifting way to start after going 9-24 last season.
TCU: Defense at the 3-point figures to be an early point of emphasis for Dixon after the Warhawks shot 44 percent from long range (12 of 27). The three most prolific shooters were a combined 10 of 18.
Louisiana-Monroe: The Warhawks will stay in the Dallas-Fort Worth area for a Sunday game at SMU.
TCU: Tennessee Tech is next Monday in the second of four straight at home that the Horned Frogs should win.