Breaking a three-game losing streak, the Texas Longhorns gutted out a close win over the TCU Horned Frogs on Wednesday in Fort Worth, 62-61, thanks to a big defensive play late by junior forward Jericho Sims.
After two late turnovers by Texas junior guard Matt Coleman gave TCU a chance to win the game with less than 10 seconds remaining, the ability of Sims to move his feet in help defense forced a travel call on Horned Frogs guard RJ Nembhard.
The sequence effectively ended the game and made up for Coleman’s late mistakes — a drive into a double team that resulted in a steal and an inability to get a shot off while trying to exhaust the clock before Nembhard’s turnover.
Coleman finished with four turnovers, but scored nine points on eight shots and dished out seven assists.
Offensively, the biggest story for the Longhorns was the ability the hit 11-of-22 shots from beyond the arc, a high level of efficiency that resulted in a plus-15 advantage for Texas on three-point shots. For a streaky shooting team, that level of shotmaking typically produces winnable games.
On Wednesday, the Horns were able to do enough late in the game to end the losing streak.
Texas shot 4-of-18 from inside the arc during the first half and turned the ball over eight times in the opening 20 minutes. Sims was active in securing four offensive rebounds, but wasn’t able to score efficiently, hitting only two of his seven attempts after entering the game hitting 66.4 percent from the field.
Early in the first half, TCU star Desmond Bane scored five quick points, but collected two fouls and sat until halftime, eventually failing to score again until making a contested three with 5:35 remaining. With Bane out, center Kevin Samuel stepped up, making Texas pay for hedging hard on screens with his rolls to the rim — when the Horned Frogs kept the court spread, the Longhorns didn’t have any help available on those rim runs. Samuel scored 13 points in the first half on only eight shot attempts.
When the second half started, Texas opened with 4-of-5 shooting and forced a timeout by Jamie Dixon by stretching the lead to six, then extending it to double digits when Coleman got out in transition and found freshman forward Kai Jones on an alley-oop. Dixon had to expend another timeout in an attempt to kill the momentum by the Longhorns.
When TCU cut the lead to six, Texas sophomore guard Courtney Ramey responded with a straightaway three-pointer off the dribble to stop the brief surge by the Horned Frogs. The ninth three of the game for Texas kept TCU from cutting too deeply into the lead when sophomore guard Andrew Jones caught a pass from Ramey at his knees, but was able to find the bottom of the net to stretch the lead back to nine.
Coming out of the under-eight timeout, TCU missed an open dunk attempt at the rim and Sims forced two fouls by working hard to create inside position and then taking his time on a post move. He only converted one free throw at the line from that stretch, but his activity level was key for a team that desperately needs him to be aggressive.
After Bane hit his first shot since early in the first half in a late-clock situation, the Longhorns responded with two clutch baskets — a deep three from junior guard Jase Febres with the shot clock expiring and a finish from Ramey off a cut that banked in from an extremely difficult angle.
Eight quick points from the Horned Frogs on three possessions and 1:39 tied the game, however, forcing a timeout from Shaka Smart. Febres bailed out the Longhorns once again, hitting another last-second three to beat the shot clock.
Febres finished with 15 points to lead Texas in that category by making 5-of-7 attempts from three-point range. When Febres plays that well and the other guards play with some level of productivity, the Horns are tough to beat, even without two contributors unavailable due to injury.
The win doesn’t particularly stand out as a key resume booster for the NCAA Tournament and there’s no reason to believe based on this result that Texas turned some type of corner this season. But it was a win, for whatever that’s worth.
On Saturday, Smart’s team returns to action at home against Iowa State.