FORT WORTH (AP) – Devonta Abron’s offensive philosophy is simple: He takes what he can.
“I don’t worry about offense,” Abron said Thursday night. “I just take care of defense first, and I just go with the flow on offense.”
Abron went plenty with the flow for TCU. The Arkansas transfer scored a career-high 17 points and Kyan Anderson led the team with 21 points, as the Horned Frogs beat Southern Utah 61-52.
The Horned Frogs (6-2) were aided by Abron’s performance in the second half, which included 13 points and four rebounds.
“We were just talking back and forth telling each other to just bang out in the paint,” Abron said, referring to Adrick McKinney, who led TCU with seven rebounds. “That was our paint. We were saying let’s take care of our house.”
The Horned Frogs led 31-28 at halftime. Southern Utah (1-5) grabbed a 38-37 lead when Damon Heuir made two free throws with 10:49 to play, but Abron’s layup put TCU back in front and they stayed there the rest of the way.
“He’s just keeping the game simple,” TCU head coach Trent Johnson said of Abron. “He’s not trying to do too much. He’s a lot more confident now and that shows in him shooting better free throws.”
It was still a five-point game after Jayson Cheesman’s tip-in for Southern Utah with 1:59 left, but Anderson’s layup extended TCU’s lead to 54-47.
Still, Johnson wasn’t entirely happy after the win. The Frogs got out-rebounded 36-29 and committed 12 turnovers.
“I think there were times tonight where we got too cute and careless with the ball,” he said.
Thursday night might have ratcheted up the Frogs’ focus heading into a home game Tuesday against Houston, Johnson said.
“The good thing about it is now our radar is up,” Johnson said. “We got (Friday) off then we got three hard practices. Houston is really good. I’m not saying they’re better, but they’re definitely more talented than the two teams we’ve lost to.”
Thomas Montigel made his first career start for TCU and scored five points in 28 minutes. But Montigel’s biggest impact might have been on defense, where he was assigned to guard Jackson Stevenett, the Thunderbirds’ leading scorer who entered Thursday night averaging 16.3 points a game.
Stevenett was held scoreless on 0-of-10 shooting against the Frogs.
“Thomas did a heck of a job,” Johnson said. “He has a great understanding of what we’re doing. I couldn’t be happier for him, because I can tell you this, we don’t win the game if he doesn’t play well.”
Abron said TCU understood stopping Stevenett would be key Thursday night.
“We knew (Stevenett) was the head of the team, and what we had to do was just chop off the head,” Abron said. “So we just put pressure on him.”
Heuir was the offensive force for Southern Utah, leading all scorers with 25 points on 7-of-14 shooting.
“He was consistent for the most part,” Anderson said. “But a lot of it was just breakdowns on defense on our part. They had a set play that we all knew was coming through scouting reports and we just didn’t buckle down and get it done.”
Southern Utah head coach Nick Robinson, who served as an assistant under Johnson at Stanford, said Heuir’s impact is something the Thunderbirds need from the rest of their players.
“Damon’s been very aggressive over the last three or four games,” Robinson said. “He struggled early but his confidence has gotten better. He’s being more consistent, which is a great thing. We need more guys to be as consistent as he is.”
Cheesman had 13 rebounds. Southern Utah shot 27 percent in the second half and 33 percent overall.
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