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TCU edges Texas down the stretch 64-61

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Once again, the ‘Horns were in it late, but just couldn’t close.

NCAA Basketball: Texas Christian at Texas Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

The familiar trend continues for Shaka Smart’s bunch: The Texas Longhorns competed, displayed flashes of tremendous potential throughout and had a chance to win down the stretch, but were unable to close as the ‘Horns fall to the TCU Horned Frogs 64-61.

With 10:01 remaining in the contest, Texas had outscored TCU by nine following a 38-36 halftime deficit. Fast forward to 5:17 to play and the Horned Frogs were now on top 56-53 behind a 10-0 run, which grew to a 12-0 run before a Jarrett Allen layup plus the foul ended a 5:17 scoring draught for the ‘Horns. Per usual, though, Texas continued to claw in what became a back-and-forth battle down the stretch.

Following an Allen missed free throw, Texas forced TCU into a 10-second violation, which subsequently led to a statement dunk from Allen in a moment that seemed it would spark Texas to a victory.

Moments later, after Texas climbed to a 59-58 lead, a Kenrich Williams tip-in gave TCU a 60-59 lead, which then swung back to the ‘Horns after a Kerwin Roach Jr. layup on the following possession. A Vladimir Brodziansky lay in then gave the lead back to the Horned Frogs with 50.8 remaining in the game, but the following possession, after expending the entire shot clock, Roach split the defense at an NBA level and followed up with a crafty reverse layup attempt that didn’t go down. After a pair of Jaylen Fisher made free throws, Texas trailed 64-61 and with an opportunity to potentially force overtime, Eric Davis Jr. missed an open three-point attempt with just under 10 ticks remaining.

Hope remained for the ‘Horns, though.

With a chance to seal the deal, Alex Robinson missed a pair of free throws, giving Texas the ball back with a chance at one final heave, but with five seconds on the clock, one-too-many dribbles from Roach resulted in a shot that was launched a bit too late; one that clanked off the back of the rim, anyway.

In a glass half-full, there were tremendous signs of growth from the ‘Horns on an individual basis, which in turn, aided in the team looking better as a unit. Allen set a new career high with 18 points on 8-14 from the floor and nine boards in what was the freshman’s best performance of the season. Meanwhile, fellow former McDonald’s All-American Andrew Jones flashed confident shooting early in the first half and made a handful of impressive plays as a facilitator.

Jones finished the night with five assists and eight points. Shaquille Cleare matched Jones with eight points of his own — all of which came in the first half, while Tevin Mack, Texas’ leading scorer, added nine points on a 3-6 shooting performance.

The bulk of TCU’s productivity came from Brodziansky and Fisher, who scored 19 and 16, respectively, to combine for 35 of the Horned Frogs 64 points. As a team, TCU blocked seven shots and added seven steals, while also holding a 36-32 rebounding edge over Texas and dishing out 17 assists to the ‘Horns 10.

In a glass half-empty, Texas still struggles to find ways to finish games it’s right in the thick of down the stretch and scoring droughts continue to plague an offense that’s still without an identity. That doesn’t prove comforting for Texas with the next three games being against No. 10 West Virginia and then hitting the road to face No. 1 Baylor and No. 2 Kansas.

That’s life in the Big 12, though, which supports why KenPom projects Texas to win just one of its final 15 games. As for now, the ‘Horns have dropped nine of their last 13 games as a postseason begins to look less and less likely each time out.

Texas is 7-9 on the season and 1-3 in conference play.