The No. 7 Texas Longhorns, the second seed in the Big 12 Tournament, advanced to the Big 12 Tournament title game on Saturday with a 66-60 win over the No. 22 TCU Horned Frogs, the sixth seed in Kansas City.
The Texas frontcourt contributed heavily to the win without forward Timmy Allen — Dylan Disu and Christian Bishop both scored 15 points to lead the Longhorns with Disu turning in a particularly efficient performance in making 6-of-7 shots from the field and adding eight rebounds, two blocks, an assist, and a steal. Bishop helped maintain the halftime lead for Texas by scoring 10 of his 15 points in the second half, including 4-of-4 shooting from the free-throw line, with five rebounds and two blocks in the final 20 minutes.
TCU was able to stay in the game by hitting 42.1 percent from three as Texas struggled beyond the arc in making only 2-of-14 attempts. The difference came in the paint, where the Horns took advantage of the absence of Horned Frogs center Eddie Lampkin Jr. to notch a 42-22 margin in the lane. Credit the transition defense from Texas, too — TCU entered the game scoring almost 19 points per game on fast breaks, but only had two on Friday. And then there was the activity defensively for interim head coach Rodney Terry’s team with 11 steals and eight blocks, a stark contrast from last week’s loss in Fort Worth.
Disu got off to a strong start after his effective performance against Oklahoma State, scoring two baskets before the first media timeout as the Horns opened 4-of-7 shooting from the field, including a nifty bank shot from forward Dillon Mitchell, who also had an early blocked shot and offensive rebound. Disu remained impactful throughout the half, making three more baskets and adding an assist and a block at the rim as the Horns hit 6-of-7 shots from the field to take a 21-16 lead and force a timeout by TCU head coach Jamie Dixon after a steal by guard Sir’Jabari Rice led to a reverse dunk by Bishop.
With the Horned Frogs lacking the interior presence of Lampkin, the Horns scored 24 of their first 25 points in the paint as the game remained close into the closing moments of the first half. Then Disu scored again and guard Tyrese Hunter hit a three when a poor entry pass resulted in a steal back fro Texas and an open look. Two baskets by Rice helped maintain and extend the margin at the end of the half, leading to a 34-26 lead heading into halftime.
Dunks by Mitchell and Bishop helped Texas early in the second half as TCU tried to mount a comeback with Bishop active and effective scoring six points with two rebounds in the first six minutes. Turnovers started piling midway through the half, though, with three in less than two minutes, but Bishop threw home another dunk and the Horned Frogs turned it over, at which point TCU lost composure with silly fouls off the ball on Mike Miles and Xavier Cork, the third on Miles and the fourth on Cork, which put Texas in the bonus and led to four straight foul shots for Disu, who converted them all.
In a less-than surprising development for two good defensive teams both locked in, neither had much success from the field during that stretch with the Longhorns going over four minutes without a basket and the Horned Frogs in the midst of 1-of-7 shooting as TCU pressured full court to create shortened shot-clock situations or force turnovers.
Fortunately for the Horns, they converted opportunities at the line, scoring seven straight points from the line until Cunningham hit a push shot in the lane. Then TCU hit two threes sandwiched around a triple by Carr, leading to a timeout by Texas with a four-point margin that held for the brief period until the under-four break.
Continued ugly play finally broke when Carr scored a layup in transition with 2:02 remaining after a blocked layup by Disu. On a key possession following a timeout 30 seconds later, Carr missed a stepback jumper before TCU had a lost-ball turnover on a drive. Rice promptly turned it over himself on a bad pass, then recovered the ball and split a trip to the line, leading to a foul and an initial goaltending call on Disu overturned on review.
The Horned Frogs wasted some time not fouling quickly, but Carr didn’t make them pay hitting only one at the line, allowing some hope when Miles hit a corner three with 5.6 seconds remaining. It was too late to pull off the comeback, however, as Texas hit 15-of-18 free throws in the second half and closed it out to advance.
Texas plays for the Big 12 Tournament title on Saturday against Kansas at 5 p.m. Central on ESPN.