Texas clamps down on defense, extends TCU’s skid

Posted Wednesday, Mar. 05, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

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Two teams headed in opposite directions in the Big 12 standings continued their journeys Wednesday at the Frank Erwin Center.

TCU, playing its final road game of the regular season seeking its first league victory, dropped a 66-54 decision to Texas, a team seeking to lock up the No. 2 seed in next week’s Big 12 Conference tournament in Kansas City.

Unlike the first meeting in Fort Worth, when the Horned Frogs pushed the Longhorns to the limit during a last-second loss on Feb. 4, Texas took control early and never let TCU creep closer than six points after building a double-digit lead in the first half. The Longhorns (22-8, 11-6 Big 12) took much of the drama out with a 14-0 surge in the first eight minutes to put away the injury-plagued Frogs (9-20, 0-17 Big 12).

TCU’s final opportunity to avoid a winless record in league play comes Saturday against No. 23 Oklahoma at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum (3 p.m., KTXA/Ch. 21). In the 18 seasons of the Big 12’s existence, only two schools have finished winless in conference play: Texas A&M (0-16 in 2003-04) and Baylor (0-16 in 1998-99).

TCU does not want to join that list, although coach Trent Johnson acknowledged the challenge of breaking through in the Big 12 is daunting for a team that has seen 10 players miss at least one game because of injury, including six who are out for the year.

“I know this. I’d like to have this team I have right now go play in somebody else’s league,” Johnson said. “We wouldn’t be 0-for-the-world, I can tell you that now.”

But the Frogs find themselves in that spot after shooting just 25.9 percent from the field (14 of 54), including a 1-for-13 performance by center Karviar Shepherd. For most of the first half, TCU guard Kyan Anderson (28 points) was the only Frog who could find the range.

Anderson, a junior from North Crowley, scored TCU’s first 14 points. Until the 3:13 mark of the first half, he was the only Horned Frog to make a shot from the field. That streak ended on Hudson Price’s 3-pointer, sparking a 9-2 surge that allowed the Frogs to creep within seven points, 34-27, in the final minute of the half.

But the surge was short-lived. Texas maintained a comfortable margin throughout the second half because of the penetration by point guard Isaiah Taylor (21 points, 5 assists) and the inside tandem of forward Connor Lammert (10 points, 13 rebounds) and center Cameron Ridley (14 points, 10 rebounds). It marked the first double-double for Lammert, who started because Jonathan Holmes sat with a sore knee.

“This team isn’t about one person,” said Lammert, who made 5 of 10 shots from the field. “I knew my teammates would have confidence in me, and I was going to go out there and give it my all.”

On two occasions in the final 7:14, a pair of Anderson free throws moved the Frogs within six points. But TCU came no closer while extending its losing streak to 17 straight.

“It feels like a big, bad dream at this point,” Anderson said. “We always give ourselves a chance. It’s just finishing.”

Texas, on the other hand, remained tied with Oklahoma (22-8, 11-6) for second place in the Big 12. If the teams remain tied after Saturday’s regular-season finales, the Sooners would be the No. 2 seed in next week’s conference tournament. OU swept the regular-season meetings.

As expected, the Frogs played without junior forward Amric Fields (knee), the team’s second-leading scorer at 13.1 points per game.

Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @Jimmy_Burch

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