The Frogs jumped out to a big lead Wednesday night in Austin, as they came out smoking hot against the Longhorns. Hitting on 9/11 shots to open the game, TCU had a chance to put the game away early. But poor defense and overall sloppiness with the ball let UT hang around through the first ten minutes of the game.
In the second ten minutes of the opening half, the game became a very back and forth affair, as Texas found their stroke from outside while doing a good job getting the ball into the post off of the Frogs’ extended half court pressure. Kerwin Roach’s three point play gave Texas their first lead of the game since the opening seconds, at 29-26, with just under seven minutes to go in the first. Vladimir Brodziansky, who has become the go-to player on offense for TCU to this point, struggled against the athletic bigs of the Horns. Though he started 3-4 for a quick six points, he seemed worn down by the contact inside as the first half came to a close, and was not effective on either end of the floor as UT built a significant lead.
But leave it to Alex Robinson, the human spark plug, to get the Frogs rolling at just the right time. With Texas looking to pull away, Robinson banked in a deep three and hit Vlad for an easy dunk a play later to cut the lead back to three. Out of the under-four time out, Jamie Dixon made the interesting choice to flare Vlad outside and leave the Frogs in a five out look. A possession later, he started at the high post and got an easy dunk off of the pick and roll. It was a master class in understanding your players by Dixon, and gave TCU confidence on both ends of the floor. A nice drive and score by Robinson followed by a pin block by Kenrich Williams had the Frogs heading into the half holding a two point lead. Jaylen Fisher’s 14 points, on 5/5 shooting (including four three pointers), led all scorers, and Vlad was second with ten. No Longhorn players hit the double-digit mark in the first stanza. Both teams shot well over 50% in the frame, but TCU’s 9 and Texas’ 8 turnovers hurt the offensive flow.
Texas tied things up right out of the gate to start the second half, as Jarrett Allen worked inside for an easy deuce. The teams would exchange missed buckets and turnovers until Jaylen Fisher made an insane save that led to a JD Miller throw down and gave the Frogs the lead at 40-38 with just under three minutes played. But Fisher would struggle for a bit, turning the ball over on consecutive plays allowing the Horns to retake the lead. TCU would go cold for the next five plus minutes until Alex Robinson went 1-2 from the free throw line to cut the Horn lead to four, but as Texas found their confidence on offense, TCU seemed to lose theirs. Shooting single digits in the half prior to a Karviar Shepherd bucket, Texas found a couple easy layups in transition and hit a three to stretch the lead to 53-46 with less than 10 to play.
A Shepard dunk followed by an offensive foul drawn woke the Frogs up, and then, trying to spark his team, Dixon went to the full-court press out of the under-8 timeout, leading to a quick turnover and Vlad bucket. TCU would run the O through Vlad for the next several minutes, utilizing their good shooting, nice passing big man to facilitate several easy buckets and out the Frogs back in the lead. Texas would call timeout after the TCU stretched the lead to 56-53 after Vlad drew a charge, but the scoring drought drug on past five minutes for the Horns as Dixon’s squad took their largest lead since the first half. With just over three minutes to play, Allen got a bucket and the foul (though he missed the freebie) to close the gap to three, ending a 12-2 run by the visitors over a five minute span. He would make up for the miss just a possession later though, as he tried to rip the rim off with a thunderous dunk off of an offensive rebound.
A poor decision by Robinson, who took a questionable three very early in the shot clock, enabled Texas to take the lead with a pair at the line just seconds after the miss. But Williams made a great play to clean up a Vlad miss and lay it in to put the purple people back on top. The teams exchanged buckets down the stretch in a one point game, as Roach and Vlad each made layups on the next two trips down the floor. A Roach miss force UT to foul, and Fish - who had been way off in the second half - drained a pair to stretch the lead back to three with 17 seconds remaining, 64-61. Texas missed a three with less than six seconds to go, and Robinson was fouled after the Frogs secured the defensive board. Robinson missed the front end of the double bonus, leading to a Shaka Smart timeout. Robinson couldn’t connect on the second out of the break, but Kenny Hustle got a paw on it - because of course he did - slowing down Texas just enough and keeping them from getting a shot off before the buzzer could sound. Dixon’s team prevailed in Austin for the first time since his playing days. The 64-61 score would be the final margin.
For the Frogs, it was another tough road game, as they continued to struggle with turning the ball over and long dry spells on offense in Big 12 play. But the young team certainly grew up a bit in Austin, and Alex Robinson and Vlad continue to show they can play with, and against, the best in the conference. Vlad’s 19 points were a game high, while Fish added 16 and Shep an important eight off the bench. Robinson’s seven assists nearly matched the total of the entire Texas team, and Kenny was the high total for boards with 13. The Frogs will be home Saturday to take on a top 25 Iowa State team, as another tough test in conference play awaits.