TCU hopes close loss to Kansas enhances shot at NIT bid

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) tangles with TCU center Karviar Shepherd (14) while chasing a loose ball.
Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) tangles with TCU center Karviar Shepherd (14) while chasing a loose ball. AP

There may or may not be another game left in the basketball season for TCU, but there are people who think there should be.

“Yeah, I would think so. I hope so, yes,” Kansas coach Bill Self said after his No. 1-seeded team needed all but the last 15 seconds to pull out a 64-59 victory against the Horned Frogs in the second round of the Big 12 tournament Thursday. “They played really well today.”

That can be said for both days TCU spent in the tournament at the Sprint Center. The Horned Frogs (18-15) went 1-1, picking up a win in the event for the first time in their three years in the conference, in a bid to make a case for the NIT.

Was it enough?

“I think so,” TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte said.

Missing their leading scorer and point guard, Kyan Anderson, for most of the second half because of foul trouble, TCU got 20 points from Trey Zeigler and 10 from Chris Washburn Jr.

It wasn’t enough to keep up with regular-season champion Kansas (25-7), which got 25 points from freshman guard Kelly Oubre Jr. and is headed for the NCAA Tournament. But it was close enough that the Frogs convinced the Jayhawks, despite getting swept in three games against them.

“We kind of underestimated them the first time, maybe the first two, but they showed us what they’re about,” Oubre said. “This game, we wanted to show them what we’re about, that we can handle their punches. And they threw a lot of them today. But we withstood them and came out with a victory.”

The 32-team National Invitation Tournament list will be announced Sunday night after the NCAA Tournament selections are revealed. If not the NIT, there is the 16-team College Basketball Invitational. TCU played in the CBI in 2012 following an 18-14 season and in the NIT in 2005 following a 19-13 season.

“We competed at the highest level playing in the toughest league in the country,” Zeigler said. “So every night, we play an NCAA Tournament team. Probably going to get seven teams in, so we feel like we’re the next team. We definitely feel like we should get the NIT bid.”

The résumé almost got stronger for TCU.

Zeigler’s free throws gave him 20 points and tied the game 51-51 with 6:42 left, and the Frogs got the ball back on Washburn’s steal.

Washburn made it past the timeline, but he couldn’t control the ball as he turned to look for help, and Oubre got it back.

Down 52-51 on their next trip, the Horned Frogs got two looks at the basket, but Brandon Parrish missed, and Zeigler couldn’t get a put-back to go in.

Kansas kept its lead the rest of the way, although it was still only a two-point game with 1:37 left following Washburn’s basket. Oubre’s drive and dunk made it 61-57 with 1:07 left, TCU used its last timeout, and the rally fell short.

“Both great players, both can step up and get a bucket anytime they want to,” Oubre said of Zeigler and Anderson. “We had to strap down on defense because Zeigler was getting in the paint a lot. They’re both great players, and they step up big for their team. I credit them for putting their team on their back.”

No matter who did what for TCU, Self was glad to have advanced without forward Perry Ellis, who sat because of a knee injury, and forward Cliff Alexander, who sat out for a fourth game as the NCAA investigates an eligibility issue.

“We didn’t play particularly well, and I thought TCU played really smart and really tough,” Self said. “Trent has done such a good job. They’ve gotten so much better.”

He also gave credit to Anderson, an honorable mention all-conference guard who remains six points shy of tying for fifth on the all-time scoring list at TCU.

“It was probably good for us that he was out, but on the flip side, when he’s out, that meant Zeigler had the ball the whole time, and he’s the one who killed us,” Self said. “I don’t know if we took total advantage of it, because Zeigler got wherever he wanted to go.”

Now it’s a question of whether TCU goes where it wants to go.

“Not my decision,” Johnson said. “I trust the people at the NIT selection committee that they will do what’s good and do what’s best by college basketball.”

Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @calexmendez

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