NCAA Tournament dreams stood hopeful as Senior Day celebrations commenced Saturday morning at the Frank Erwin Center. The familiar home environment has served as the Longhorns’ petri dish this season — an area where they’ve grown, thrived and recorded a 7–2 record in the Big 12.
But TCU shooting guard Desmond Bane and his team arrived in Austin for business, as the Frogs were situated on the bubble of the NCAA Tournament after losing six of seven. Bane played the role of a supervillain to Texas’ tournament hopes, scorching Texas (16–15, 8–10 Big 12) with 34 points en route to a dominant 69-56 win for TCU (19–12, 7–11 Big 12). The 13-point defeat in the regular season finale marks the Longhorns’ worst home showing of the year.
“I’ve never been as disappointed as I am right now,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said to open his postgame press conference.
Bane was the model of efficiency from the floor, sinking 14 of his 20 attempts — including 6-of-8 3-pointers on his career-high day. Texas struggled shifting around the perimeter, allowing the Horned Frogs to connect on nine of their first 12 attempts from beyond the arc, many of which were uncontested.
“We started running a little different offense, have a little more movement, and it opened up a lot of looks for myself and my teammates,” Bane said, comparing his performance to his 62-point game from high school.
Whether it was layups, long-range shots or rebounding, Bane was a star in every sense of the word, unable to be upended by Texas’ backcourt.
“Desmond Bane did a great job of hitting open shots, getting the easy ones to really get his confidence,” Texas shooting guard Courtney Ramey said. “It’s really hard to stop a good player when they have confidence and we just didn’t do a good job of shutting his water off.”
The Longhorns grasped a 22-16 lead before Jamie Dixon’s team unleashed an unwavering spirit. TCU outrebounded Texas, 35-24, and effectively broke the Longhorns’ full-court press to acquire easy buckets on the other end. With both teams’ tournament lives in jeopardy, TCU out-hustled Texas and sprinted to the halftime break on a 19-5 run with a short rotation of seven players.
“The energy in the program feels right,” Bane said. “Rebounding was an emphasis so we came in and knocked some bodies around. If you outrebound a team on the road, it’s clear — especially if you do it by 11 — the energy and effort you’re playing with.”
In the second half, the shorthanded Horned Frogs immediately captured a double-digit lead and refused to look back. The stingy TCU defense rejected four shots under the basket in the first four minutes of the second half. Outside of center Jaxson Hayes, who dropped 19 points on 93 percent true shooting, TCU had the Longhorns clamped. Texas shot a pitiful 21.1 percent from 3-point range and failed to draw frequent trips to the free throw line, resulting in a nightmarish ending to Senior Day.
“You want to do everything you can to win for your seniors,” Smart said. “But if you go over the line of ‘I don’t wanna mess up for my seniors, I don’t wanna lose a game for my seniors’ … then you see what you saw today. We have to be better.”
Only one game for certain remains on Texas’ schedule: its opener in the Big 12 Tournament. Unless the Longhorns emerge victorious in the tournament, they’ll vie to become the first-ever 16-loss team to receive an at-large NCAA Tournament bid. But TCU head coach Jamie Dixon, neighbors with Texas on the bubble, addressed his thoughts on Texas’ tournament status while defending TCU’s résumé.
“This is an NCAA Tournament team,” Dixon said.