Charles Hill Jr. was a long way from the basket, and he didn’t have much time. But for a moment, it looked like his running 3-pointer might go in.
It sure was on line.
But it hit the back of the rim, the horn sounded, and TCU again felt a familiar feeling — that feeling of almost — after a 64-61 loss to No. 9 Kansas on Wednesday night in front of two charged fan bases at Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center.
Hill’s shot would have forced overtime. That alone would have been a remarkable feat for the Horned Frogs (14-6, 1-6 Big 12), who trailed by 11 points with 3:35 left and missed 14 free throws.
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But they somehow outworked the Jayhawks the rest of the way, got within a possession, and when Kansas’ Frank Mason III missed two free throws with 4.7 seconds left, the Frogs rebounded quickly, got the ball upcourt, and Hill took his shot.
“He did exactly what he’s been taught to do,” TCU coach Trent Johnson said. “I thought he had a good look at it. I just wish I would have had a timeout. Had to use them. Had to use them.”
Johnson had to use those timeouts because there were moments in the second half when the Horned Frogs were almost run out of the gym. Wizardly drives and buckets from Mason and put-back dunks had Kansas (17-3, 6-1) in control in front of thousands of its fans in the Fort Worth ISD facility.
Twice, Johnson used timeouts to stem the tide.
Each time, the Frogs steadied themselves and gave themselves a chance with energetic rebounding and defense. Chris Washburn had 12 rebounds, Trey Zeigler had 11 as part of a double-double, and Kenrich Williams had nine as TCU finished with a 50-40 rebounding edge.
“I was proud of them,” Johnson said. “They don’t like losing. I don’t like losing. Probably the turning point for me was, we were down 12 or 13, they were going after us pretty good — dunking, running in transition — I called a couple of timeouts and I could look in their eyes and tell we would be all right.”
But the Frogs shot only 30.6 percent (22-for-72), were 2-for-12 on 3-pointers, and 15-for-29 on free throws.
“We’re trying to find a way to win the ones at the end, make certain plays to help secure victories,” guard Kyan Anderson said. “It’s still a team that’s learning how to win in situations like that.”
Johnson likes the resiliency of the Horned Frogs, who lost a physical, emotional game they thought they had won in overtime at West Virginia.
“These kids, me, our staff — we don’t feel good. There’s a frustration level,” Johnson said. “I hate to use that word. There’s a frustration level. We had an opportunity, if we do a few things well, to win this game.”
They almost did.
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7760