The Texas Longhorns just wanted this one more, and they went out and took the game, owning the lead from start to finish to gut out a gritty 66-60 win over the TCU Horned Frogs.
Here are a few quick thoughts from Texas’ Big 12 semifinal win.
This was an absolutely gritty win by Texas. Still no Timmy Allen (lower leg injury), Marcus Carr’s slump continued, Sir’Jabari Rice had an uncharacteristically off night, and Tyrese Hunter wasn’t much of a factor. If you watched TCU look phenomenal last night and told me all of the above would be true, I’d say Texas is heading back to Austin tonight. But they just completely willed their way to a win tonight, and thus, willed their way into the Big 12 Tournament title game vs. Kansas. Texas’ defensive identity was on full display tonight, making life miserable for one of the nation’s best when it comes to tempo and finding easy points, and refusing to ever leet TCU find much of a rhythm. Texas was definitely the aggressor on that end and it was the difference in the game. And while offense wasn’t exactly much fun to watch, Texas found a way to find points at key moments, both when TCU tried to punch throughout and especially down the stretch, and between that and the swarming, scrappy defense, Texas never once trailed. Just an impressive, gritty win by the Longhorns.
Texas’ big men were, well, big. As noted, the Longhorns’ guards didn’t have their best night. Carr, Hunter, Rice, and even Arterio Morris combined for just 26 points on 9-38 from the field. But Dyla Disu and Christian Bishop more than made up for it, and not just offensively. Disu got going early and started 6-7 from the field as part of his 15 points, and Bishop followed that up with another 15 of his own behind some strong, imposing moves and dunks at the rim. But more so, they combined for 15 rebounds, many of which were key, and more notably, five blocks to headline a smothering defensive effort for the Longhorns. These two seldom share the floor, and they were so good tonight that Texas had no choice but to deploy both of them, and it was to their benefit. Texas won this game because of the kind of performance Disu and Bishop put forth.
The last couple performances have to inspire some confidence for Texas heading into the Big 12 title game. Texas started slow and finished incredibly sloppy against Oklahoma State, and still won by 14. Then tonight, despite getting relatively little from some of its key standouts, Texas just physically overmatched and out-willed a really good TCU squad to the point that the Horned Frogs never even tasted the lead. And this all comes with Texas playing far from its best basketball thus far in the Big 12 Tournament. Allen potentially returning to the lineup and getting the expected showings from Carr, Rice, or Hunter would be ideal, but it’s getting more difficult to count out this Longhorns squad that’s just simply finding ways to win and seemingly getting hotter at the right time.