Texas avenges TCU to advance to NIT Championship

Steve Helwick

Less than one month ago, TCU stormed into Austin and terminated Texas’ March Madness hopes with a surprising 69-56 thrashing of the Longhorns. That loss sent Texas into the NIT, but along the way, the Longhorns received a chance at revenge.

TCU triumphed in Fort Worth and in Austin, but the NIT Semifinal in New York was a different story. In the rivals’ third meeting of the season, Texas finally bested TCU and ended the Horned Frogs’ season in a 58-44 win. At the same time, Texas head coach Shaka Smart and the Longhorns punched their ticket to Thursday’s NIT Championship, where they’ll battle Lipscomb for a banner-raising opportunity in Madison Square Garden.

“I want to coach them one more game beyond tonight, and we just don’t want it to end,” Shaka Smart in a postgame interview with Texas Sports radio. “I thought our guys did a good job of being aggressive, confident and loose as I asked them to be. So now we got a heck of a Lipscomb team that we get to play on Thursday.”

With the realization that every game could be their last donning burnt orange and white, Texas’ two seniors sustained their tournament success. Shooting guard Kerwin Roach II pitched in 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting, scoring most of his points on strong drives to the rim. Power forward Dylan Osetkowski nearly recorded a double-double with 13 points and nine rebounds. When TCU attempted to assemble a late comeback and pulled within 11, Osetkowski shut down the Horned Frogs’ hopes with a three from the wing as just 2:29 remained in the contest.

“I mean, one-for-four from three, that was the first time realizing how many threes I took. I think every one is going in when I shoot it,” Osetkowski said on his clutch three. “It felt good. All four of them felt good, but thankfully that one went in and put this one away.”

The Longhorns’ defense forced TCU to its worst half of the season offensively. TCU missed 16 of its final 19 shots in the first 20 minutes, registering a season-low 17 points in a half. Many of the Horned Frogs’ possessions that didn’t end in missed shots resulted in turnovers or offensive fouls. Texas’ relentless defense, combined with Roach’s finishing ability, bolstered the Longhorns to a 31-17 halftime lead.

“Every time down the floor after they scored, we talked about, ‘We need a stop. We need three stops in a row,’” Osetkowski said on Texas Sports radio. “On the defensive end, we did a great job of that tonight.”

Texas locked down the paint and forced poor shot selection from the Horned Frogs. TCU ended the night shooting 28.3 percent from the floor. The Frogs’ front court of Kouat Noi, JD Miller and Kevin Samuel combined for just 11 points on 5-of-22 shooting. Desmond Bane, responsible for ending Texas’ March Madness dreams with a 34-point outing on March 9, led TCU with a team-high 12 points.

“It’s our third time playing them. There’s not too much else that we don’t know about each other,” Osetkowski said. “They kind of took it to us from the three-point line in transition both games, so we just wanted to make sure that we eliminated that this time.”

One of 10 college hoops teams still alive, Texas advances to its season finale against Lipscomb — a team Texas defeated 80-57 last season at the Erwin Center. Tipping off at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Texas is focused on shipping hardware back to Austin as it hunts for its first NIT championship since 1978.