FORT WORTH, Texas — Faced with a bigger, stronger opponent, Southern pushed as hard as it could, hoping TCU would budge.
Instead, the Horned Frogs proved immovable as the Jaguars wore down in a 68-57 defeat Tuesday night at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum.
“They were more physical than us,” Southern guard Derick Beltran said. “They pounded us inside and we had no answer for it.”
Though it didn’t show in the numbers — the Jaguars were outrebounded by only four and actually outscored TCU inside, 30-26 — Southern was pushed around all night by 255-pound TCU centers Adrick McKinney and Devonta Abron, who combined for 20 points on 7-of-9 shooting and 16 rebounds and, more importantly, got Southern big men Javan Mitchell and Brandon Moore in foul trouble early.
Still, the Jaguars (4-6) found some offensive success by slashing to the basket, and it allowed them to hang around and even have a few chances to seize the game. Each time TCU (7-4) built a little lead in the second half — the Horned Frogs didn’t take their first 10-point advantage until only 6:49 remained in the game — guard Jameel Grace sliced to the basket to drop in a tough layup or create a foul.
Grace’s two free throws with 13:30 left drew Southern within four points at 43-39, and the Jaguars turned up their defensive pressure trying to ignite a run. And they quickly gave themselves a chance to cut the TCU lead to two after a stop.
The Jaguars went right back to what was working. Grace, matched one-on-one against TCU reserve Chris Zurcher, burst toward the rim again. He extended to shoot and drew noticeable contact from Zurcher — but got no call.
“When you go into an away game, you expect not to get certain calls,” Grace said. “If I could call it ... I wish I could. You just have to keep playing. You never know what would have happened if I’d gotten the call.”
Instead, the loose ball went to the Frogs, and Jarvis Ray made it pay off with a fast-break layin on the other end. After Mitchell — an 84-percent free-throw shooter coming in — missed two from the foul line, TCU pushed the lead back to eight on McKinney’s power layup.
While they hung around, the Jaguars couldn’t make the Frogs sweat from that point on. Eventually, Garlon Green’s outside gunnery and McKinney’s muscle down low allowed TCU to take control. Green’s long 3-pointer from the left wing put the Frogs up 55-43 at the 6:49 mark to put the Jaguars away.
“We got kind of emotionally into the game,” SU coach Roman Banks said. “We have to learn that on the road, in these environments, you have to play through that. They kind of got caught up in not getting the foul instead of shaking it off and coming back and playing again.
“We had a couple of chances. We just didn’t do a good job of capitalizing when we could have and we allowed them to get second opportunities.”
Green finished with 20 points on 7-of-15 shooting and McKinney scored 12 and added nine rebounds to lead TCU. Beltran led Southern with 17 points, while Green and Malcolm Miller added 12 each.
The deciding factor was TCU’s brawn, which eventually pushed Southern too far.
By the stretch run, the Jaguars’ legs were gone, as evidenced by their second-half shooting.
After hitting four of nine 3-pointers in the first half, they went 0-for-8 in the second, part of a 37.5 percent performance from the field after halftime. TCU, meanwhile, shot 52 percent for the half.
“This game tells me that for this team to go to another level, we’ve got to get our physicality up,” Banks said. “Instead of looking for the foul, we’ve got to push through it. This will give me a chance to teach that theme to them about taking care of an opportunity when you have it. It’s a going-outside-yourself type of thing, being energized and not being denied.
“It was something we can learn from.”
Grace said that lesson hit home Tuesday.
“It’s definitely a mindset,” he said. “I just felt mentally we weren’t there.”