SMU tops TCU in opener, but both have much to work on
NOV 08, 2013 8:08p ET
Both teams were dealing with incorporating young, talented players. In SMU's case, the middle game of the Buckets and Boots Showcase was also chance to initiate several high-profile transfers who had been sitting out a year.
One of those was point guard Nic Moore, a transfer from Illinois State, who finally got a chance to play for legendary coach Larry Brown.
Moore led SMU with 14 points, eight rebounds and four assists. He also led the Mustangs in teachable moments, which is what this first game was chock-full of for both teams.
"Coach walked by me just a second ago and said I'm going to have to watch the tape with him, just by ourselves," Moore said. "So I'll probably have to watch it twice."
It won't be an enjoyable film session. SMU broke out to a 9-0 lead, then led 21-8 with 11:28 to play in the first half.
TCU switched to a zone defense and scratched and clawed to within one, 30-29, at halftime.
"I'm not ecstatic," said Brown, SMU's 73-year-old Hall of Fame of coach. "I'm not going to say we played like the YMCA in 1907, but we had an 18-6 and a chance to blow the game open, and all of the sudden we're playing like the summertime. Taking shots with one pass, turning the ball over, getting ourselves in foul trouble."
Early reports on the rebuilt Mustangs suggested that they could contend for an NCAA Tournament berth in their first season in the new American Athletic Conference. Those reports were even more glowing after SMU's two closed scrimmages.
"We had two great scrimmages, but we didn't play anything like those scrimmages," Brown said. "We played like strangers tonight."
TCU took advantage of SMU's sudden unfamiliarity to score the first three baskets in the second half and jump out to a 36-30 lead.
SMU regained momentum in the second half with an 11-0 run. Back-to-back buckets by Cannen Cunningham gave the Mustangs a 47-41 lead with 12:20 to play.
SMU freshman Keith Frazier then hit a 3-pointer to put SMU up 50-43. The McDonald's All-American didn't start and didn't play down the stretch, but he played 18 minutes and scored 11 points on 3-of-5 shooting from 3-point range.
"There's not a shot he doesn't think he can make. As soon as he walks in this area code, he's ready to let it go," Brown said.
"I have confidence he can make shots. But for him to play as well as we all know he can, he's got to learn how to guard. He's got to learn time and score. There's a lot of things that he needs to get better at, but he comes every day and plays. He just wants to play. He's like a young Colt."
TCU got even bigger performances from its two big freshmen. Brandon Parrish led the Frogs with 13 points while Karviar Shepherd contributed eight points and eight rebounds.
Ultimately, SMU's 39-34 rebounding advantage hurt TCU in crunch time while the Mustangs secured the game in the final minutes with free throws.
"We got off to a horrendous start," TCU coach Trent Johnson said. "First game, against a good basketball team. I thought we took some ill-advised shots early, but I liked the way we responded."
TCU committed 11 of its 17 turnovers in the second half, while SMU had just three turnovers in the final 20 minutes.
"We had a lot of opportunities to take over the game," TCU's Jarvis Ray said. "If we just stay together and keep our heads up and knock down shots like we do in practice, we'll be fine."
The difference between practice games and a real game was recurring theme for both squads.
"Definitely," said SMU's Cunningham. "This gets your adrenaline going. You get super-tired two minutes into the game. It's different. And then we were playing a rival, so it's a big game."
Follow Keith Whitmire on Twitter: @Keith_Whitmire
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