FORT WORTH — February marks the last whole month of the college basketball regular season, and there’s only one thing teams fight for — an NCAA Tournament bid.
With TCU having dropped two straight and Texas having lost a heartbreaker at home to Kansas State on Wednesday night, Saturday afternoon’s matchup between the two in-state foes was welcomed with high stakes. But the Horned Frogs left little doubt of their worthiness in their home arena, thrashing Texas, 87-71.
“If we go out and play and bring the same level of spirit and energy to the court that we did today, it really doesn’t matter who we play in the Big 12,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said, “because everybody is good enough to beat that team that played today.”
DAILY TEXAN SPORTS POSTGAME LIVE: TCU handles Texas, 87-71. Reaction: https://t.co/8CZ928BFUt— Daily Texan Sports (@texansports) February 10, 2018
After tipoff, two immediate Texas turnovers were exchanged for a quick 5-0 TCU lead. The Horned Frogs controlled the game from that moment until the final horn sounded at Schollmaier Arena, never allowing their lead to shrink below eight in the second half.
“We knew that we were gonna have to come in here and make them miss and grab the ball,” Smart said. “We didn’t do either of those things at anywhere near a high enough level in order to win the game.”
TCU sliced and diced Texas’ defense in every way imaginable. The Horned Frogs came out of the gate firing from 3-point range to build a respectable lead in the early stages. Then, TCU began penetrating the lane, passing quickly and finding cutters for open layups.
TCU shooting guard Kenrich Williams and point guard Alex Robinson were key facilitators, and 6-foot-11 power forward Vladimir Brodziansky dominated on post moves to score 25 on the Texas bigs.
“We’re a team that shoots the ball well from three, but it really all starts with penetration,” TCU head coach Jamie Dixon said. “To be as good as we are offensively, you have to do a lot of things well and you have to be well-rounded. We can drive it, we can post up, score inside and we can shoot threes. The combination allows us to be pretty good.”
TCU reverted to draining threes late in the second half and ended up converting on 10 triples during the 16-point win.
“We didn’t show enough intensity,” freshman center Mo Bamba said. “We were basically just hoping they’d miss.”
Although Texas’ defense struggled to contain the Horned Frogs throughout the 40 minutes, the Longhorns unleashed one of their best offensive showings of the year.
Two facets of Texas’ offense were highly functional — Bamba, and surprisingly, the 3-point shooting. Bamba, who has consistently been efficient during the last month, pitched in 23 points in the Longhorns’ highest-scoring road game since Jan. 1.
Texas entered the game shooting just 31 percent from long range, but the team excelled by sinking 10-of-20 threes, including a handful that seemed from NBA range. But TCU’s offense managed to respond every time Texas’ shooters caught fire.
“It was really draining. They made a couple in the second half that were really good defense,” Smart said. “TCU’s a really good team. They move the ball and attack. We needed to do a better job of running them off the line and playing with active hands.”
Texas (15–10, 5–7 Big 12) has dropped two games in a row and five consecutive matchups on the road. The Longhorns’ upcoming schedule bodes unfavorably for a potential NCAA Tournament invitation, but the team can reverse this sudden decline by winning difficult upcoming games.
It will be a quick turnaround, as the Longhorns host Baylor on Monday night.
“This is adversity right here,” junior guard Eric Davis Jr. said. “It’s gonna show what we’re about as a team individually. We’re gonna stay together and get it right.”