STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) – Jarvis Ray scored Texas Christian’s first two points on a pair of free throws with his shorts on backward.
He was then summoned to the bench, laughing as he made a wardrobe adjustment while a pair of teammates shielded him from the crowd. It was one of the few mistakes the Horned Frogs made all night.
Charles Hill Jr. scored a career-high 20 points and Kyan Anderson added 16 as Texas Christian beat Mississippi State 71-61 on Thursday night in the Big 12/SEC challenge.
“For us, it’s a good win,” TCU coach Trent Johnson said. “It’s a really good win and our basketball team is making strides.”
TCU (5-3) won for the fifth time in six games, jumping out to a 34-22 lead by halftime. The Horned Frogs led by 18 early in the second half, but the Bulldogs pulled within 59-56 on Roquez Johnson’s putback with 2:24 remaining.
It was the closest they would get. The Horned Frogs scored the next four points and made the most of their free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
Freshman forward Karviar Shepherd added nine points and 16 rebounds. He also helped the Horned Frogs neutralize Mississippi State big man Gavin Ware, who finished with nine points and six rebounds.
Hill made 7 of 13 shots from the field, including 3 of 5 from 3-point range.
“I was just trying to be aggressive, going to the basket early,” Hill said. “When they played off me, I was able to shoot jumpers. My teammates were looking for me and that made it a lot easier.”
Mississippi State (5-2) lost for the first time at home this season. Craig Sword led the Bulldogs with 24 points on 9 of 12 shooting from the field. The 6-foot-3 sophomore was named the SEC Player of the Week last week and continued his streak of good all-around play, adding five rebounds, five steals and three assists.
But he was the only Bulldog providing consistent production. TCU played a zone defense most of the night and Mississippi State’s offense looked lost, shooting just 3 of 18 (16.7 percent) from 3-point range.
“We made a comeback and we played hard, but that was out of desperation,” Mississippi State coach Rick Ray said. “That really doesn’t count. We’ve got to do that from the very beginning.”
Texas Christian made 25 of 31 (80.6 percent) free throws and 6 of 14 (43 percent) from 3-point range.
Texas Christian led after the first minute and pushed ahead 19-8 by midway through the first half thanks to nine straight points by Hill.
The 6-foot-2 sophomore came off to bench to score 10 points in the first half as the Horned Frogs pushed out to the 12-point halftime lead. Mississippi State shot just 9 of 25 from the field (36 percent) in the first half and missed all six of its 3-point attempts.
But the Bulldogs methodically fought back in the second half, using a few big 3-pointers by I.J. Ready to vault back into the game. Ready, a freshman guard, was playing his first game after missing three weeks with a strained hamstring. He finished with nine points.
Mississippi State escaped with a few wins last week, pulling out close games against Jackson State and Loyola despite not playing particularly well.
But the Horned Frogs weren’t nearly as forgiving and punished the Bulldogs’ defensive lapses, slicing through the lane for easy baskets.
“Our problem is that we refuse to be sound on the defensive end,” Ray said.
It was TCU’s first game since the loss of starting forward Amric Fields, who broke his hand in last week’s loss to Harvard.
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