AUSTIN — In a top-20 matchup of programs that entered the game with identical conference and overall records, the No. 10 Texas Longhorns overcame an 18-point deficit in the first half to outscore the No. 17 TCU Horned Frogs by 17 points in the second half for a 79-75 victory at the Moody Center, the first conference win in the new arena.
The final deficit, achieved with one second remaining, marked the largest lead of the game for the Longhorns and the comeback overall was the largest for Texas since a late February game against Oklahoma in 2013.
Texas guard Marcus Carr hit a three late in the shot clock for a three-point lead with 1:01 remaining and three free throws by guard Sir’Jabari Rice made the margin stand up in the final seconds.
After interim head coach Rodney Terry challenged Rice at halftime to be more aggressive in the second half, the New Mexico State transfer scored all 15 of his points in the second half as the Longhorns overcame a 13-point Horned Frogs lead at halftime. Rice started using his patented pump fake to get into the lane and remained intent on getting downhill after Texas got into the bonus with 8:41 left, scoring 10 straight points for the Longhorns over a stretch of two and a half minutes and hitting 8-of-9 free throws.
TCU head coach Jamie Dixon bemoaned his team’s inability to follow the scouting report and stay down on Rice’s pump fake, though Rice wasn’t surprised at its effectiveness. Neither was forward Timmy Allen.
“You’re gonna jump, it doesn’t matter,” he said.
Allen scored a team-high 17 points, with four baskets coming in the first seven-plus minutes of the second half as the Longhorns tried to claw back into the game, scoring twice in transition, but also playing effectively in isolation.
Arguably the biggest key was more effective ball movement with forward Dylan Disu one of the top beneficiaries, scoring 14 points on 7-of-7 shooting, tying his high at Texas. With Disu cutting off the ball and his teammates finding him, the Vanderbilt transfer had four layups and a dunk over 4:49, a stretch during which Texas overcame a six-point deficit.
“We needed to continue to move the basketball, but a lot of times when we settle down and put the ball inside, it kind of calms us down,” Terry said. “We can get our cutters moving, we can get the ball moving a little bit more in terms of playing through a guy to post a little bit.”
The Longhorns shot 59.4 percent in the second half and took only two three-point attempts after shooting 14 from distance in the first half and making only two. By emphasizing attacking the basket, including from a variety of isolation plays, Texas scored 26 second-half points in the paint and had 13 layups and four dunks. Taking better care of the basketball made a difference, too — of the all 11 turnovers by the Horns, only three came in the final 20 minutes.
“Our shot selection early wasn’t great,” Terry said. “We were driving in areas where we didn’t have great space and they do a great job of really swiping hands getting our hands on the ball a lot.”
Texas missed its first eight threes before guard Tyrese Hunter hit the first for Texas with 6:09 remaining until halftime as the Longhorns struggled to break down the perimeter defense of the Horned Frogs and the ball wasn’t moving to force the TCU defense to move from side to side.
“We were standing around a lot, the ball was sticking, wasn’t moving the way we needed it to, we didn’t have guys cutting the way we needed to cut against his defense, and as a result of that we were down,” Terry said.
The eight turnovers in the first half also contributed to an 11-2 advantage for the Horned Frogs in fast-break points, a number reduced by a missed dunk in transition by TCU guard Damion Baugh that led to an alley-oop dunk by Texas forward Dillon Mitchell on the other end, a key four-point swing in a game decided by that margin.
that's how it's done pic.twitter.com/mIXOBt7eSu— Texas Men’s Basketball (@TexasMBB) January 12, 2023
In Dixon’s post-game press conference, he cited the breakdown of team defense in the second half as players got left in one-on-one situations, but continued to come back to the rebounding deficit, as Texas out-rebounded TCU by seven in the second half after the Horned Frogs had an advantage of five rebounds in the first half. The 11 offensive rebounds for the Longhorns in the second half resulted in eight second-chance points.
Defensively, the Longhorns made some adjustments in the second half in their pick-and-roll coverage, but the Horned Frogs players cited defensive breakdowns late in the game as the biggest difference in the outcome.
For Terry, the key all along was to stick with it.
“You’ve got to continue to work the game and the game’s never over, you keep working it and put yourself back in position again and I thought I guys got a chance to do that.”