FORT WORTH — Big 12 road games have been anything but a cakewalk for Texas this year. But with under 30 seconds remaining in Schollmaier Arena, the Longhorns possessed the ball with an opportunity to complete a double-digit, second-half comeback and force overtime.
Leading by three in the waning seconds, TCU head coach Jamie Dixon implemented a strategy to expend his team’s fouls to prevent Texas from running a set play. Instead of 22 seconds, Texas was allotted six seconds to operate. The best look the Longhorns received was an Elijah Mitrou-Long corner three that ricocheted off the top of the backboard. The Horned Frogs corralled the desperation heave and TCU (14–4, 3–3 Big 12) hung on for a 65-61 win over Texas (11–8, 3–4).
“We had the two (fouls) to give, we used some time and we didn’t want to foul them on the catch,” Dixon said of his late-game strategy. “I think it was executed pretty well. It was certainly the right way, made them take a tough shot, and that’s where we wanted to be.”
Texas stood in front for much of the first half, but a slew of turnovers contributed to a slight halftime deficit. TCU championed the second half in wire-to-wire fashion after holding a 35-31 edge at the break. Then center Kevin Samuel’s domination in the paint propelled TCU to a 13-5 run, setting the tone for the rest of the night.
“I thought we had an opportunity in the first half to build on a lead,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said. “If you look at the points off turnovers and off of offensive rebounds, that was a huge part of why they won the game. We didn’t do a good enough job valuing the basketball and keeping them off the glass, so that led to us being down at the half instead of being up at the half.”
A comeback appeared to be brewing when Texas collapsed TCU’s advantage to two points. However, the Longhorns couldn’t avoid the whistle while battling a physical TCU offense. Texas committed 20 fouls and sent the Horned Frogs to the line for 18 attempts, many in the latter stretch of the second half.
“We gotta defend without fouling,” shooting guard Kerwin Roach II said. “I think we did a pretty good job of it, but the calls didn’t get reciprocated at the end.”
Shooting guard Desmond Bane, who had a game-high 17 points, turned on the burners on drives to reenergize TCU. Bane swerved through Longhorn defenders and finished with an acrobatic, reverse underhand layup high off the glass. He followed it up with another difficult layup one possession later, hampering Texas’ comeback and extending TCU’s lead to 62-54 with 3:54 remaining.
“Plays like that definitely help get us going, get the crowd moving, and help us close out games,” Bane said. “(The reverse underhand layup) is something we joke around with (in practice) and it was crazy just to put it in in a game.”
Shooting guard Jase Febres sparked another comeback to create a one-possession deficit. Texas’ opportunity to tie was foiled by Dixon’s fouling strategy, causing a third-straight road loss for the Longhorns.
Basketball’s a game of possessions, and seven of the Longhorns’ eight losses have fallen within six points. Texas players, 1–4 in their last five outings, analyzed why the Longhorns have been on the wrong end of numerous close contests.
“Just to capitalize on the smaller details, is all we need,” center Jaxson Hayes said. “We had 17 turnovers. We just need to take away like three of those, and it’s a whole different story.”