In a matter of moments, TCU’s hot hand went ice cold.
A nip-and-tuck, two-point game quickly became untenable for TCU, as Texas ran away with a 70-57 victory Wednesday night in the first round of the Big 12 men’s basketball tournament at the Sprint Center.
The Horned Frogs’ first season in the Big 12 ended with a Jekyll-and-Hyde shooting performance. TCU (11-21) made its first 12 free throws after entering the game shooting 59 percent from the line, the 340th-worst percentage in the country. But in the final 11 minutes, with Texas holding onto a precarious lead, the Frogs’ hot hand went cold as they missed five of their last nine free-throw attempts.
The Frogs also started hot from 3-point range, making 6 of their first 13 attempts. But as Texas started to pull away late in the second half, TCU missed its last eight 3-point attempts.
Texas (16-16), meanwhile, stayed steady from the line and made 25-of-32, including 18-of-20 in the second half. The Longhorns play 11th-ranked Kansas State (25-6), the tournament’s No. 2 seed, at 6 p.m. Thursday.
“We got out to a bad start in the second half and we had a lot of open looks that didn’t go down for us,” TCU coach Trent Johnson said. “They did a good job getting us out of our rhythm. They’re big and strong. They’re a dangerous team right now.”
Texas’ 9-2 run midway through the second half helped build a 54-46 lead with under 8:00 remaining. The Horns outscored the Frogs 20-11 over the final 10:15. TCU’s Adrick McKinney finally stopped the slide with a layup with 7:31 left. He was fouled on the play but missed the free throw and TCU trailed 54-48. But a layup and two free throws by Myck Kabongo gave Texas a 58-48 lead with 6:30 remaining, and TCU couldn’t shoot its way back into the game.
“We thought about going to zone earlier in the game,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said. “[TCU] really attacked the lane hard. We wanted, from the beginning, to force them to shoot jump shots.”
Texas, which has won three consecutive games for the first time since November, led 28-26 at the half after getting off to a fast start and led 10-2 after Kabongo was fouled on a layup and made the free throw with 14:32 left in the half.
After Sheldon McClellan’s 3-pointer gave the Longhorns a 13-4 lead, Texas’ shooting went cold. The Horns didn’t connect on a field goal for over eight minutes — from the 13:04 mark until Connor Lammert’s layup with 4:52 left gave the Horns an 18-14 lead.
During Texas’ shooting drought, TCU outscored the Horns 10-3 to get back in the game. Nate Butler Lind on consecutive possessions to give the Frogs their first lead 22-21 with 2:43 to go in the half. Julien Lewis followed with consecutive 3-pointers for Texas to push the Horns’ lead back to 27-22 with 1:37 left in the half.
“At the start of the game I really thought our defense was outstanding,” Barnes said. “In the second half, I felt our zone was really good for us.”
Connell Crossland, a senior playing in his last game for TCU, led the Frogs with 11 points. Freshman Charles Hill Jr., from Fort Worth Trimble Tech, scored 10 points and finished his first season with two games shooting 50 percent. Lewis led Texas with 19 points. Kabongo scored 16 and dished out six assists.