TCU’s opportunity to shock the world with success at the Big 12 men’s basketball tournament ended in one-and-done fashion Wednesday night in the Sprint Center.
Baylor pulled the plug on the Horned Frogs’ historically disappointing season with a 76-68 triumph that will give TCU a pair of unwanted souvenirs to carry into next year: a 20-game losing streak against Big 12 opponents, as well as a 19-game losing streak that ranks as the nation’s longest active mark.
Behind the inside tandem of forward Cory Jefferson (20 points, 10 rebounds) and center Isaiah Austin (18 points, 5 blocked shots), the Bears (22-10) made quick work of the Frogs (9-22) while advancing to Thursday’s second-round game against Oklahoma (6 p.m., KTXA/Ch. 21) in quest of the league’s automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Baylor began the game on a 15-3 run and built the lead to 32-16 late in the first half. But the Frogs hung tough, cutting the margin to six points, 69-63, on Jarvis Ray’s dunk with 2:20 remaining. TCU, however, never crept closer.
Baylor connected on 54.5 percent of its shots from the field and won the battle of the boards 39-22. TCU warmed up in the second half, hitting 14-of-26 after intermission (53.8 pct) to improve to 45.3 percent and throw a late scare into the Bears. The Frogs’ late surge was led by center Karviar Shepherd (19 points, seven rebounds), one of four TCU scorers who finished in double figures.
For TCU, the loss put an end to an injury-marred season when 10 players missed at least one game because of injury and only four players took part in every contest. TCU, the first team to post an 0-18 regular-season record as a Big 12 member, fell for the third time in three meetings against Baylor. But this one was by only eight points, compared to regular-season blowouts of 26 and 33 points.
“I wish we could have broken through, but it is what it is,” TCU coach Trent Johnson said. “Baylor’s a good basketball team. They caused a lot of problems with their skill level and athleticism. I’m a firm believer that adversity reveals your character as opposed to build it. And this is a group that has a lot of character. They competed their tails off.”
Shepherd said: “We’re going to learn from this and come back next year and do what we’ve got to to do to win games.”
TCU, a second-year member of the Big 12, fell to Texas 70-57 in last year’s opening game at the conference tournament. That loss, plus the 18 in the regular season and Wednesday’s setback against Baylor, gives the Frogs 20 consecutive losses against league opponents since defeating Oklahoma 70-67 on March 9, 2013, in Fort Worth.
The Frogs’ 19-game losing streak to close the season is the longest active mark among the 351 schools that play Division I basketball. For Johnson and his staffers, the next step is to ramp up recruiting efforts and hope for better health when a young team (only two seniors) reconvenes next fall.
In addition to Shepherd, other key contributors in the TCU attack were Ray, a senior who had 17 points in his final college game, and point guard Kyan Anderson (17 points, 8 assists), a junior from North Crowley who earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors earlier this week. The Frogs’ hot shooting in the second half caught the attention of Baylor coach Scott Drew.
“The most important thing is to survive and advance. We did that,” Drew said. “But we’ve got to defend a lot better. We gave up 54 percent in the second half. That gets you sent home in a hurry. You can’t win games not defending.”
Anderson, the Frogs’ leading scorer, said he looks forward to next season, when injured players will return to action along with two transfers and some prized incoming recruits.
“It should be a lot of fun,” Anderson said. “If we can stay healthy and consistent with our weapons, it will be a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to it. We’re going to learn from this year. We don’t want to feel like this next year.”