First there was hope.
Kerwin Roach Jr. had a chance at a game-tying, near half-court shot that could’ve sent Tuesday night’s contest against TCU into overtime.
Then there was disappointment.
The sophomore guard dribbled the ball for five seconds without getting a shot off. The buzzer sounded. Texas lost 64-61 at the Frank Erwin Center, marking the first time TCU has won in Austin in 30 years.
“To be honest, it should’ve never gotten to that point,” Roach said. “We were up by seven at one point with seven minutes left. We should’ve just kept that going.”
Roach and fellow sophomore guard Tevin Mack were barking at each other after the final play. Roach said Mack wanted him to move the ball up for a chance at a closer shot. But the sequence was a microcosm of what has ailed the Longhorns — a struggle to close games.
Before TCU missed two free throws to give Roach a chance with five seconds left, Texas was up 53-46 with 8:48 left to play. The Horned Frogs proceeded to go on a 12–0 run, while Texas went scoreless for nearly five minutes.
“When you get up six or eight points, those next two or three minutes are huge — it’s critical,” head coach Shaka Smart said. “If you’re able to extend the lead, it can be demoralizing to the other team, then you can kind of build on top of that.”
Forward Jarrett Allen, who led Texas with 18 points, gave the Erwin Center hope by looking every bit like a top-10 prospect in the final minutes of the game. The freshman scored Texas’ first points in over five minutes with 3:15 left to play and slammed home a vicious, one-handed dunk to pump life into the sparse crowd. A layup by Roach gave Texas a 61-60 lead with 1:13 left.
Then, the disappointment again. TCU quickly scored on the other end, and Texas’ next possession couldn’t have gone worse. Roach missed a tough layup with the shot clock winding down. With 17 seconds left to play, Texas was forced to foul.
“You’re almost about to kill their will, and then they just come back,” Roach said. “It’s very frustrating.”
The Frogs hit two free throws to go up 64-61 and Texas still had a chance. Sophomore guard Eric Davis Jr. got the ball behind the three-point line right in front of the Texas bench. The ball left his hands and clanked off the rim.
“We had a lot of really good looks in the last five minutes or so,” Smart said. “Those are shots guys are trying to make. Nobody’s trying to miss.”
And even after that, Texas still had hope. TCU missed its final two free throws to put the burnt orange away, allowing a chance for a prayer at the buzzer, which Texas squandered.
The Longhorns are now 7–9 overall and 1–3 in Big 12 play. Texas is 2–5 in games decided by five points or less, and the road gets tougher with No. 10 West Virginia in town on Saturday.
“We just wanted to get a win,” Allen said. “We’re willing to do anything now to get a win.”
They’ll have to close.