With Thursday’s 60-47 win over the Oklahoma State Cowboys, the No. 7 Texas Longhorns advanced to the semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City to match up with the No. 22 TCU Horned Frogs with a spot in Saturday’s championship game at the T-Mobile Center on the line.
Interim head coach Rodney Terry’s team moved on despite playing without forward Timmy Allen, who is day to day after suffering a lower right leg injury in last Saturday’s regular-season finale against Kansas.
In Allen’s place, guard Sir’Jabari Rice earned his first start with the Longhorns and scored a game-high 15 points, hitting all eight free-throw attempts and adding six rebounds despite struggling from beyond the arc with 1-of-5 shooting and turning the ball over four times.
Texas got a more steady and much-needed performance from forward Dylan Disu in his matchup with one of the conference’s biggest frontcourts. Disu scored 11 points and had an impact defensively with three steals, but his 11 rebounds were crucial in securing his first double-double of the season and his overall impact was apparent by finishing plus-19, the game high.
Defensively, the Longhorns were locked in against the offensively-challenged Cowboys, who were playing without lead guard Avery Anderson — Texas forced 20 turnovers they turned into 22 points and held a 10-3 advantage in fast-break points. Oklahoma State went through long stretches of offensive futility, including eight straight missed shots over nearly nine and a half minutes in the first half and a 3-of-23 shooting start to the second half that featured 10 straight misses.
Against one of the best defensive teams in the country, the Longhorns also suffered from a 1-of-10 shooting stretch in the first half and a 1-of-14 shooting stretch that encompassed more than 12 minutes in the second half. With guard Marcus Carr struggling with his shotmaking over recent games, it’s an open question where Texas can go for a basket in critical situations — Rice has the ability to take and make clutch shots, but relies on his teammates finding him for open threes or getting into the lane with his patented pump fake rather than creating jumpers off the bounce like Carr can when he’s in rhythm.
TCU advanced with an 80-67 win over No. 12 Kansas State behind 22-point performances from guard Mike Miles and forward Chuck O’Bannon, who each made four three-pointers. No other Horned Frogs scored in double digits, but a strong team defensive effort had nine steals and forced 20 overall turnovers by the Wildcats and held them to 23.3-percent shooting from beyond the arc, including a 3-of-15 combined effort from star guards Markquis Nowell and Keyontae Johnson.
In the previous meeting between the two teams, a 75-73 win by the Horned Frogs in Fort Worth last week, the Longhorns failed in some critical areas of pre-game emphasis — they weren’t strong with the basketball early in the game to avoid run outs by TCU, they didn’t work hard enough for rebounds, and the defensive effort was poor in general. The result was a massive rebounding advantage for the Horned Frogs in the first half and a 12-point lead that the Horns were never able to full overcome despite playing better after halftime.
Guard Damion Baugh scored a game-high 24 points and dished out nine assists and forward Emmanuel Miller added 20 points with 10 rebounds.
If there’s one thing Texas will look to replicate from that game, it’s the defense that guard Tyrese Hunter played on star TCU guard Mike Miles, who scored only one point and missed all eight shot attempts from the field.
The winner of Friday’s late game will face either Iowa State or No. 3 Kansas at 5 p.m. Central on Saturday.
How to watch
Time: 8:30 p.m. Central