FORT WORTH — Three days after shocking reigning Big 12 champion Kansas, Texas had trouble pulling away from lowly TCU.
The Longhorns (18-4, 7-2 Big 12) played down to the Horned Frogs (9-12, 0-12 Big 12), who sit in the basement of the Big 12, on Tuesday night. It wasn’t until a late second-half three-pointer that Texas pulled away from TCU in a 59-54 win.
“We got to understand that we put ourselves in the position to win the Big 12 championship, but we also put ourselves in position that teams are going to want to beat us every night,” junior forward Jonathan Holmes said. “We need to understand that, and we can’t play flat. They played well and gave us a really tough game.”
Texas started strong with a 7-0 run to open the contest, but a TCU time-out helped the Horned Frogs regain focus. The Longhorns maintained their lead for most of the first half, despite sloppy turnovers and missed shots, but they let TCU take a two-point lead into the break.
A zone defense confounded Texas, who shot 38.7 percent from the floor in the first half and committed 10 turnovers.
“I don’t want to take away anything from TCU,” head coach Rick Barnes said. “But to start the game the first half, we played not to lose. It wasn’t a hangover from the Kansas game, but we tried too hard to get the ball inside. We were forcing it.”
Texas regained its lead to begin the second half but quickly returned to its poor performance. Both teams traded baskets and leads throughout the last 30 minutes, as TCU strived for an upset and its first conference win of the season.
A three-pointer by TCU’s Brandon Parrish tied the game at 52 with under three minutes remaining. Seconds later, Holmes returned the favor with a three-pointer of his own to give the Longhorns a lead they never surrendered.
“We finally were able to get out and run,” Holmes said. “The guards did a really good job looking for me and giving me really good passes when I had the angles to go out and make some shots.”
Holmes, Texas’ lone scholarship upperclassman, led the team with 20 points — 17 of which came in the second half — and 16 rebounds. Behind him was sophomore center Cameron Ridley with 12 points. Freshman Isaiah Taylor, who led the Longhorns against Kansas, finished with 11 points, nine of which came in the second half.
Barnes used a combination of man and zone defense to contain the Horned Frogs, who shot just 32.7 percent from the floor. The Longhorns, who outmatched TCU in size, outrebounded the Horned Frogs 56-25 but lost the turnover game 13-8.
Texas now moves its win streak to seven-straight games before it heads to Kansas to face Kansas State on Saturday. The Longhorns sit second in the Big 12 as they head into the final stretch of the season.
“We have a good group of guys, but now we’re halfway through the conference season,” Barnes said. “We have a long ways to go.”