Some losses just don’t feel so bad.
Maybe this one should have — TCU lost 81-72 to No. 8 Kansas on Saturday as the Jayhawks rattled Allen Fieldhouse with a showstopping alley-oop to Perry Ellis and then watched him follow it with a steal for another electric dunk.
But down 66-50 with 6:35 left and the building shaking like a volcano, the Horned Frogs did not shrivel. They answered with a 9-0 run, gave themselves a sliver of a chance late and walked away with their self-respect, despite losing their modest two-game winning streak.
“We knew we were going to have to take some punches,” senior guard Trey Zeigler said. “We just wanted to weather the storm and keep battling. We feel good where we are right now.”
So does Trent Johnson, actually. The highly demanding TCU coach said the Horned Frogs played about as well as they have played on the road this year against a team that is simply more advanced than his.
“We played a team that our program, our team — let’s just be honest about it — is not there yet,” he said. “We played them tough at home. We beat Oklahoma State by playing our best basketball of the year. We beat K-State by playing our best basketball of the year. I’m not into moral victories, but usually, the last three years I’ve been here, he’s cleared his bench with about 10 minutes to go.”
KU coach Bill Self couldn’t afford that Saturday. The Jayhawks (22-5, 11-3) shot 58.3 percent and dunked five times — including three by Ellis, who had 23 points — but even with 1:28 left, it was still a game following Zeigler’s layup that cut the lead to 74-67.
The Jayhawks had to make 7 of 8 free throws from there to wrap up the game.
“I think that they’re a good team, and they’ve gotten a lot better — a lot better team than we played down in Fort Worth,” Self said. “They made some free throws today, made some 3s today. And they do a good job defensively guarding, except we shot a pretty good percentage today.
“Maybe one or two games this year, we’ve had a chance to breathe the last five minutes, where it was already over. This was not one of those games.”
Zeigler scored a season-high 20 points for TCU (16-11, 3-11), which has four games left in the regular season. Kyan Anderson had 14 points and seven assists.
But despite shooting 40 percent and breaking 70 points, the Horned Frogs did not have the firepower to keep up once they fell behind 26-24 with 4:45 left in the first half on a bucket from Ellis, who was 9 for 10.
They missed the scoring touch shown of late by Karviar Shepherd, who sat with four fouls. They couldn’t get 3-pointers down — shooting 5 for 16. They were blocked four times inside and got only 12 offensive rebounds, compared to 26 in the first meeting in For Worth.
“Obviously, they’ll run out on you in the blink of an eye,” Johnson said. “You can be 30 down, 25 down. They’re really, really talented. So for us to be in this position where we have a chance down the stretch, it speaks volumes to how we’ve matured, how we’ve grown. Our margin of error is pretty slim, in this league especially. I can’t fault our effort. I can’t fault our execution at times, because they put it on you to be good — really good — offensively.”
The Horned Frogs have four games left, and they did not seem to lose their newfound confidence.
“We won two in a row. We were hoping to get this one,” Zeigler said. “But we’ve got a good stretch coming up where we think we can be playing some good basketball, our best basketball, at the end of the season.”
That would be nothing to feel bad about.
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7760