FORT WORTH, Texas - - Belmont University men's basketball dropped an 87-76 decision at No. 23 TCU Wednesday night.
TCU entered riding an NCAA-best 11-game win streak, showcasing depth and versatility of a Big 12 Conference contender.
And the Bruins weathered an early storm from the host Horned Frogs, as TCU center Vladimir Brodziansky - who entered play with 29 career 3-point field goals - made three 3-pointers in the first 4:20 of the game as TCU built a nine point lead.
The Bruins stabilized behind the strong play of junior Dylan Windler (Indianapolis, Ind.), who closed the margin to 19-14 eight minutes in.
But as Belmont clean looks rimmed off, Jaylen Fisher capped a 15-0 TCU run with a conventional 3-point play to extend the margin to 20, 34-14, with 7:33 left in the first half.
Belmont hasn't become a nationally-relevant program for a decade-plus by going away quietly; the Bruins took the standing eight-count and responded with tough, purposeful basketball.
Bench contributions on both ends from freshman Nick Hopkins (Fayetteville, Tenn.) and junior Mack Mercer (Plymouth, Ind.) helped Belmont close the half on a 13-3 run to make the score 42-31 at halftime.
Belmont shot 48 percent (14-for-29) from the field in the opening 20 minutes, outscoring TCU 24-16 in the paint.
Moreover, the Bruins limited the Horned Frogs to 8-for-23 shooting inside the arc, but TCU made seven first half 3-pointers.
A Windler driving basket to open the second half continued the positive momentum, before an offensive rebound basket from Kenrich Williams.
Brodziansky's fifth 3-pointer of the evening extended the margin to 55-37 with 15:37 left before Belmont answered back.
Consecutive 3-pointers from senior Amanze Egekeze (Lake in the Hills, Ill.) got the Bruins within 12.
Baskets from Egekeze, junior Kevin McClain (Jennings, Fla.) and five Hopkins points trimmed the margin to nine, 67-58, with 9:35 remaining.
The Bruins then played two straight possessions of strong halfcourt defense, only to have the Horned Frogs score putback baskets off initial misses.
Windler picked up his fourth personal foul with 7:51 left to half a bit of momentum, but again the Bruins showcased great togetherness and poise in fighting on.
As Belmont held TCU to one made field goal over a six-minute stretch, McClain and Hopkins caught fire off assists from senior Austin Luke (Rowlett, Texas).
The Bruins had several promising opportunities to inch closer, but open shots dipped out.
Egekeze burned the nets with just under two minutes left to make the score 77-70, but late in the shot clock Alex Robinson found a cutting Brodziansky for a layin.
Belmont would get within seven on three more occasions, but Desmond Bane made six consecutive free throws in the final 24 seconds to secure the outcome.
All told, Belmont shot 51 percent (30-for-59) from the field - including 53 percent in the second half.
Windler led four Bruins in double figures with 17 points. Egekeze and McClain each scored 15. Hopkins had 10.
Brodziansky led TCU (7-0) with 22 points.
Belmont (4-4) returns to game action Saturday, Dec. 2 vs. Green Bay. Tip-off is set for 1 p.m. CT from the Curb Event Center. The game will be broadcast on OVC Digital Network. The live play-by-play of Voice of the Bruins Kevin Ingram can be heard on the Bruin Sports Network. In-game updates will be available via Twitter @BelmontMBB.
NOTES: Belmont had a season-high 24 assists on 30 made field goals ... Sophomore Seth Adelsperger (Peru, Ind.) had six points and two blocked shots in his first career start ... Luke (Rowlett, Texas) had six points and eight assists in his homecoming game ... Windler had his streak of seven consecutive double figure rebound games snapped ... Hopkins had a career-high five assists.
Coach Byrd: "I'm proud of the character of this team. We have a ways to go but we will keep working to get better. 15-0 second chance points hurt us. That was the difference. I like TCU's team. We're better having played them."— Belmont Basketball (@BelmontMBB) November 30, 2017