FORT WORTH, Texas — For one half, the Southwestern University Pirates men's basketball team stood toe-to-toe with an opponent head and shoulders taller than them in the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs.
Trailing 26-16 halfway through the first half, the Pirates closed the half strong, pulling to within 43-38 on a pair of Joel Martinez free throws with time expired.
"When you go into a game like this, every coach understands what's in front of them," Head Coach Connor Kuykendall said. "If you'd told me before the game we'd be down just five against TCU at their place, I would've said you were crazy."
And yet, the Pirates found themselves exactly in that position because SCAC Player of the Year Brandon Alexander played most of the game out of his mind.
Alexander was on fire, leading all scorers with 28 points on 10-for-12 shooting, including 6-for-8 from deep with four rebounds, two steals, and only one turnover. In 16 minutes in the first half, Alexander scored 20 points on 7-for-9 shooting, giving TCU all it could handle.
"He played really well, shot the ball really well. Sometimes when you play teams like this, you can get sped up and rush your shot," Kuykendall said. "I think he did a great job staying patient and making good reads in how they were guarding him. He's good because the kind of effort he puts into the gym in the spring and summer."
Alexander was joined by guard Luke Hicks as the lone Pirates to score in double figures, scoring 12 points on 4-for-8 shooting, hitting two 3-pointers and dishing out two assists in 23 minutes.
"I thought he competed. He had to guard a future NBA player on defense and I think he did a good job of staying patient in the offense and taking what was given to him," Kuykendall said. "He's going to be a big part of what we're doing here. He played hard on both ends and he's a good leader for us."
Before the game, Kuykendall warned his team not to get caught up in the score. But during halftime, it's hard not to get caught up in the moment.
"I told them let's just go out and play the way we've been working the last few weeks and just play Southwestern basketball," Kuykendall said. "I thought they did a good job of not getting caught up in playing in front of 6,000 fans against a power five conference school. Once you're in the moment, I said let's go after it."
The Pirates opened the second second half with a Hicks layup to pull within three but TCU responded with a 15-0 run to blow the game open.
Desmond Bane was one of four TCU players in double figures, scoring 26 points on 10-for-16 shooting, including 5-for-10 from the 3-point line.
"To TCU's credit, they did exactly what they were supposed to do at halftime," Kuykendall said. "But we never stopped battling."