For someone who talks so much about winning in March, Chris Beard sure doesn’t do much of it in Kansas City.
The head coach of the No. 22-ranked Texas Longhorns is now 1-5 in the Big 12 Tournament and still without a win since 2018 after his team blew a 20-point first-half lead to the TCU Horned Frogs in a 65-60 loss on Thursday at the T-Mobile Center.
“We knew it was a two-half game and we just had to keep playing the right way. And we did not do that,” Texas senior forward Timmy Allen said.
In winning time, Texas missed its last four shots, didn’t make a field goal over the final 2:41, and couldn’t get a stop when they needed it, conceding dunks, offensive rebounds that led to layups, and an easy layup on an in-bounds pass with 1:25 remaining. Over the final 2:09, the Longhorns were outscored 10-1.
“We’ve been in games with teams like this all year long,” Beard said. “When it comes to winning time, you’ve got to make some plays.”
Texas has now lost its last three games by seven points or less.
One of Beard’s prized transfers, senior guard Marcus Carr, continued his erratic play, fouling out with seven points on 3-of-13 shooting, including 1-of-10 shooting in the second half, and two turnovers. With 1:53 left, Carr took a bad jumper in the lane that predictably missed instead of working through senior guard Courtney Ramey and senior forward Timmy Allen, who played much better games. Ramey finished with 15 points and made multiple key baskets and Allen led the team with 16 points. Both had nine rebounds.
Then Carr followed up his ill-advised shot by committing a bad foul playing on-ball defense well away from the basket with TCU in the bonus, resulting in a made free throw, two offensive rebounds, and a layup by big Eddie Lampkin, who made the final three field goals for the Horned Frogs.
“He won his individual battle,” Beard said of Lampkin, who scored 10 points on 5-of-9 shooting with nine rebounds, three steals, and two blocks. “He was active, big, seemed to me he didn’t want to lose today.”
It was the sixth poor performance by Carr in Big 12 play, raising questions of why Beard hasn’t been able to get more out of Carr more consistently or why he chose to take an inefficient, high-volume shooter from a bad team when the roster construction at that point in the process demanded a facilitator.
Relatedly, the Texas offense once again went through a long drought in the second half, going more than six minutes without a field goal, and managed only 20 points on 22.6-percent shooting, including 1-of-11 shooting from three-point range.
And in a disturbing trend, it was the opposing team that once again made better offensive adjustments to Beard’s defense. In the first half, the Longhorns were successful trapping Horned Frogs standout guard Mike Miles, limiting him to two points on 1-of-7 shooting. But in the second half, Miles was able to get free for 11 points and TCU shot 65 percent from the field and took 20 free throws to only eight for Texas as the Longhorns were outscored by 23 points.
Texas entered the game ranking No. 41 in defensive efficiency over the previous 10 games, a disturbing trend for a head coach who wants to use high-level defense to engage in ugly, often unwatchable rock fights. Better not forget the rocks.
TCU was by far the more hungry team in the second half and throughout portions of the first half, possessing a 30-10 advantage in points in the paint, an 18-8 advantage in points off turnovers, and a 38-31 advantage in rebounds.
The end result wasted a remarkable stretch in the first half by the Longhorns.
By the under-four timeout, the Horns held a 24-19 lead thanks to hot shooting from the field, making seven of their last eight shots. When junior guard Brock Cunningham hit a three with 3:15 remaining, the Longhorns were up by 10 points thanks to a 9-0 run over less than three minutes. TCU head coach Jamie Dixon was forced to call a timeout when senior guard Jase Febres hit a three to make it a 15-1 run and a 35-20 lead. Ramey hit another three after the Horned Frogs botched a layup and the Longhorns were in the midst of one of their best stretches of the season.
Over the final 5:38 of the first half, Texas went on a 20-3 run by making 12 of their final 13 shots. Allen scored 10 points and Ramey added eight to lead the way for the Horns as the team shot 65.2 percent from the field, including 7-of-11 shooting from three.
“That’s just good coaching,” Texas head coach Chris Beard joked at halftime.
The second half? Not so much.
So the Horns leave Kansas City having failed to accomplish the goal of playing a complete game and the goal of improving the team’s resume for the NCAA Tournament. Now they wait for Selection Sunday and hope to avoid a team with enough length and athleticism to pull off the upset in the opening round while attempting to execute a late change in mindset.
“I think we’ve got a bunch of guys who think they have the answers, but they really don’t,” Beard said. “A part of winning play mentality is you’ve got to hate to lose.”