TCU completed its unstoppable run to an imperfect season Saturday at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum.
Now, the Horned Frogs stand alone in the Big 12 record book as the only men’s basketball team to finish winless in an 18-game conference campaign.
The Frogs sealed that less-than-desirable distinction with a 97-67 loss to No. 23 Oklahoma (23-8, 12-6), which secured the No. 2 seed in next week’s Big 12 tournament in Kansas City.
But TCU (9-21, 0-18) does have company in the winless category. In the league’s 18-year history, Texas A&M (0-16 in 2003-04) and Baylor (0-16 in 1998-99) also posted winless conference records.
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For the injury-plagued Frogs, Saturday’s setback marked a fitting conclusion to a regular season when 10 players missed at least one game because of injury, including six who are out for the year.
Of the Frogs’ 18 league losses, only four were by single digits: five-point setbacks against West Virginia and Texas, as well as a six-point loss to Texas Tech and an eight-point loss to Oklahoma on Jan. 22.
Because of circumstances, TCU coach Trent Johnson said he looks at this team in a much different light than outsiders who see only the record.
“This group has never stopped playing,” Johnson said. “For me, I struggle because we’re not very good. But there’s reasons why we’re not very good. Because we’re not very talented, and we’re not very deep. And we’ve been banged up.
“But these kids continue to fight. To me, that’s winning.”
But that effort has not yielded a victory in conference play. TCU stayed close for most of the first half Saturday but eventually wilted against the hot-shooting Sooners, who made 50.7 percent from the field, including a blistering 14 of 30 (46.7 pct.) from behind the 3-point arc.
Guard Buddy Hield (24 points, eight rebounds) led the onslaught, which saw four Sooners finish in double figures.
TCU forward Jarvis Ray, one of two seniors playing his final game in Fort Worth, matched his career high with 18 points to lead the Frogs. Along with guard Kyan Anderson (17 points, four assists), Ray helped TCU remain within seven points until OU broke the game open with a 10-2 surge in the final four minutes of the first half.
The Sooners never looked back, finishing with a 44-30 edge in rebounds and a 25-14 edge in bench scoring to secure the No. 2 seed in Kansas City.
“Considering we’re arguably in the toughest league in the country, we feel good about that,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “To be a No. 2 seed, these guys have worked hard and they’ve earned it.”
After the victory, Hield said: “We can’t relax. We’ve got something to prove to everybody. We’re trying to win a Big 12 tournament championship.”
TCU will have that same opportunity, starting with Wednesday’s first-round game against Baylor (8:30 p.m.). The TCU-Baylor winner plays Oklahoma the next night.
In addition to bidding goodbye to Ray and fellow senior guard Thomas Montigel, TCU waved goodbye to Daniel-Meyer in its current configuration. The Frogs will play at an off-campus facility next season (venue TBD) while DMC undergoes a $59 million renovation. TCU will return to an updated DMC for the 2015-16 season.
By that time, Johnson said he envisions a team that “looks like the team that just beat us.” Saturday, however, he had six of his best players at the end of bench, unavailable to play because of injuries.
“I’m not worried about injuries. I was more worried about us being able to finish this year,” Johnson said. “I was more worried about Kyan Anderson being able to finish this year without getting hurt because of the physical wear and tear he takes.”
Now, TCU’s regular season is finished. And it comes with an unwanted spot in the Big 12 record book.