Responding to falling out of the AP Poll Top 25 this week, the Texas Longhorns went on the road in Fort Worth on Tuesday and rolled to an impressive 73-50 victory over the TCU Horned Frogs in front of a record crowd at Schollmaier Arena.
It was one of the best performances in head coach Chris Beard’s first season back at Texas — the Longhorns played well on both ends of the court, holding the Horned Frogs to 36-percent shooting and hitting 44.6 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from three-point range. After underachieving from beyond the arc for most of the year, Tuesday’s win marked the second-best shooting percentage from distance behind the win over Sam Houston State at Gregory Gym in late November.
Most impressively, Texas was finally able to get out into the open court and score in transition opportunities. The Horned Frogs turned the ball over 13 times, not an exceptionally high number, but the Longhorns turned those giveaways into 16 points and scored 22 points on the fast break. For comparison, Texas only scored two fast-break point in last week’s home loss to Kansas State — Tuesday’s efforts in transition were more than the Longhorns have scored for long stretches of multiple games combined this season.
Senior forward Timmy Allen led the way offensively with 16 points, one of four Texas players in double digits, consistently getting open on cuts off the ball, and adding eight rebounds, a block, and a steal. At the guard position, seniors Courtney Ramey, Marcus Carr, and Andrew Jones combined to score 37 points in efficient performances. When all three play well, Texas is hard to beat.
Overall, the ball moved quickly and effectively for Texas — the Horns finished with 19 assists on 29 made baskets, including five assists from junior forward Tre Mitchell, who played perhaps his best floor game since transferring from UMass.
On the glass, Texas played extraordinarily well against a strong rebounding team. Entering the game No. 2 nationally in offensive rebounding rate, TCU was only able secure nine offensive rebounds, leading to six second-chance points. Meanwhile, the Longhorns were opportunistic on missed shots with 15 offensive rebounds and 12 second-chance points, in addition to a plus-10 rebounding advantage overall.
The difference in rebounding and turnovers afforded Texas 15 extra shots over TCU. Combined with 2-for-15 shooting for the Horned Frogs from three-point range and 12-of-21 shooting from the free-throw line, TCU never had a path to victory on Tuesday as Texas made the best of its opportunities.
Texas started the game making three of its first four shots, then missed its next four as TCU hit four of its first six attempts from the field. Finishing at the rim was a particular problem for the Longhorns, as three of the first eight shot attempts were blocked, as well as a last-second, one-handed catch and shoot in the lane by Ramey negated on review.
By the 13:40 mark, five of the first 12 shot attempts by the Longhorns were blocked by the Horned Frogs, who in turn scored their first 10 points in the paint.
But despite the issues finishing around the rim, Allen scored 10 points by the under-12 timeout thanks to his smart cuts off the ball and four made free throws. In fact, Allen scored six straight points for the Longhorns before Ramey hit a three-pointer in transition to take a 19-10 lead and force a timeout by the Horned Frogs. The three marked seven straight points on the fast break for Texas as the 9-0 run in the midst of a 12-2 stretch was keyed by four turnovers by TCU over 127 seconds.
The Longhorns also continued a trend from recent games, playing Allen more often at the three, typically paired with Mitchell and senior forward Christian Bishop, the team’s most effective lineup, according to EvanMiyakawa.com. The rotation change meant that sophomore guard Devin Askew and senior guard Jase Febres didn’t play in the first 17 minutes of the first half.
Moving junior guard Brock Cunningham up in the rotation paid off in one particular sequence when Cunningham hustled for two offensive rebounds that turned into a made three by senior guard Andrew Jones to give Texas a 13-point lead, the largest of the game for the Longhorns. On the following Texas possession, Cunningham pump faked and drove to the basket for a layup. Later in the half, he dove on the floor for a loose ball, effectively combating the “little man Cunningham” chants from the TCU fans.
Cunningham finished with four points, seven rebounds, and four assists in 12 effective minutes.
When Ramey hit another three with 3:13 remaining, the Horns were up 37-19 as Texas went on a 14-3 run. Jones scored a traditional three-point play with a driving layup in transition to push the lead to 41-20 as the clock ticked under the two-minute mark. A layup by the Horned Frogs with 33 seconds left in the half marked the first field goal in more than eight minutes.
Texas finished the half with a 43-23 lead as even Askew got in on the scoring, making a jumper late as the Longhorns shot 48.5 percent and held the Horned Frogs to 30.9-percent shooting and 0-of-9 from three-point range.
Out of halftime, the Longhorns continued cutting off the ball as Carr finished a layup on an assist from Bishop, giving Texas 12 assists on 17 made baskets to that point. Another good cut by Allen resulted in an assist from Askew, who later helped force a steal, then hit a layup in transition on a good pass from Cunningham after recovering the loose ball, forcing TCU to call a timeout down 54-33 with 13:05 remaining.
A three by Jones and a layup by Askew in transition caused Jamie Dixon to signal for a break in play less than two minutes later as Texas stretched the lead to 59-35.
The Horned Frogs struggled to cut into the lead, but when they did finally trim the margin to 15 with 5:29 left, Carr responded with a three on an assist by Cunningham, his fourth of the game.
With the momentum generated from two straight wins and the decidedly heartening performance against TCU, Texas prepares to host Tennessee and Rick Barnes on Saturday at the Erwin Center in a homecoming for the best head coach in program history.