No matter what, TCU has something to show for the season.
Three years into its Big 12 membership, and 12 months removed from a winless season in the conference, the Horned Frogs picked up their first victory in the Big 12 tournament Wednesday, defeating Kansas State 67-65.
Senior guards Kyan Anderson and Trey Zeigler combined for 31 points and nine assists, and sophomore forward Chris Washburn — one of the building blocks for next season — had 16 points on 8-of-11 shooting and eight rebounds in what coach Trent Johnson called “his best game all year long.”
The ninth-seeded Horned Frogs (18-14) will meet No. 1 seed Kansas at 1:30 p.m. Thursday in a quarterfinal in the Sprint Center.
“We came in here very confident,” Zeigler said. “We ended the [regular] season on a high note. We felt like, overall, we played well, even though we didn’t finish our games. We came in here, and we knew Kansas State was a good team. Kyan and I just tried to make sure we did everything we could do as senior captains.”
The Frogs built a 12-point lead in the first half and hung on after Kansas State (15-17) made it a one-possession game in the final minute. Zeigler’s two free throws with 35 seconds left, and Kenrich Williams’ defensive rebound and free throw with 13.7 seconds left wrapped it up.
The victory gave the Frogs two wins in three games against Kansas State this season.
“Coming into it, we thought it was going to be our game,” Anderson said. “So that’s just the mentality we have. … When it got down to the end, I told these guys, ‘Try to make the solid plays, don’t lose aggressiveness, and just make solid plays down the stretch.’ And we did that.”
The Horned Frogs were outrebounded 41-33 and shot less than 50 percent on free throws, making 9 of 19.
But they were 47.4 percent from the field, including 4 of 7 from 3-point range by Anderson. His deep 3-pointer put TCU ahead 50-44 with 9:04 left to blunt one K-State rally, and he followed it two trips later with a drive that finished with a finger roll for a 54-44 lead.
The Frogs committed only three turnovers in the second half.
“This is a time of year where you need to get good guard play, and these two guys have been stepping up all year long,” Johnson said. “And they’re both seniors. But I thought they did a really, really good job of handling the ball and getting us into the offense.”
K-State had one more push, cutting the lead to two points at 64-62 with 1:58 left on Nino Williams’ strip under his basket and a 3-point play.
Johnson took his last timeout with 57 seconds left and TCU holding on to that lead. A solid possession resulted in free throws for Zeigler, and he made both for a 66-62 lead.
Kenrich Williams collected a defensive rebound and made a free throw with 13.7 seconds left, and the Frogs conceded a last-second 3-pointer — the only one Kansas State made in the game.
“These kids have given great effort,” Johnson said. “Sometimes in the ‘W’ and loss column, it hasn’t always been good. But it has a lot to do with who you’re playing. I mean, that’s been pretty consistent.”
And now it continues Thursday against Kansas, which won both meetings against TCU this season.
“Premier team in this league, one of the premier teams in the country,” Johnson said of the Jayhawks. “No basketball program has a more storied tradition than they do, and we’ve got to find a way to compete at a high level in a short period of time. It’s just a supreme challenge. It always has been.”
But it’s potentially a good matchup for the Frogs.
“We feel like they play the same style of basketball we do,” Zeigler said. “They’re a tough, physical, defensive team. We had two good games against them, so hopefully, we can continue to compete and try to get a win tomorrow.”
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7760
Big 12 tournament
8. Kansas State
10. Texas Tech
4. Baylor vs. 5. West Virginia, 11:30 a.m., ESPN2
1. Kansas vs. 9. TCU, 1:30 p.m., ESPN2
2. Iowa State vs. 7. Texas or 10. Texas Tech, 6 p.m., ESPNU
3. Oklahoma vs. 6. Oklahoma St., 8 p.m., ESPNU
Semifinals: 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., ESPN or ESPN2
Final: 5 p.m., ESPN