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TCU 75, Baylor 72: Bane, Fuller power upset of Bears

Desmond Bane pours in 23 points to lead the Frogs over the No. 2 Baylor Bears.

NCAA Basketball: Baylor at Texas Christian Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Desmond Bane crossed over Freddie Gillespie, stepped back, and calmly drilled a three pointer. The shot gave TCU a 63-55 lead over No. 2 ranked Baylor, and Scott Drew stepped off of Baylor’s bench and called a timeout while Schollmaier Arena went ballistic.

Meanwhile, the senior guard pounded his chest and shouted “I’m that guy!” as TCU’s bench went nuts...

The Frogs weren’t supposed to win today. Baylor is the No. 2 team in the country, and will be a 1-seed when the NCAA Tournament arrives. The Frogs had already lost to Baylor 68-52 earlier this season. Vegas had TCU has a 7.5 underdog at home. They trailed by 12 points with 16:27 left in the game.

But none of that mattered when it was all said and done, because That Guy scored 23 points and willed the Horned Frogs to victory on Saturday afternoon, 75-72.

Bane hit five three pointers, all in the second half, and PJ Fuller added 21 points of his own as the Frogs beat a top 5 team for just the third time in program history. Gillespie and Jared Butler both had 18 points to lead Baylor, which fell to 14-2 in Big 12 play. Gillespie also added 17 rebounds for the Bears in what was a monster performance for the senior.

It’s just the latest chapter in a head-scratching season for TCU basketball, which has gone 1-7 so far on the road in Big 12 play, but has now beaten three ranked teams on its home court.

That’s ultimately what you get, I suspect, when your team is mostly freshmen and sophomores, save for Bane, Edric Dennis and Jaire Grayer.

Dennis and Grayer both saw significant minutes Saturday, with the latter adding 13 points and nine rebounds in a mammoth effort down low. Meanwhile, Dennis struggled at points, but also made a couple big baskets late to help TCU maintain their lead.

Dennis has seen extended minutes in the last few games, and did so again today with the absence of Francisco Farabello, who sat again with a concussion.

RJ Nembhard was also unavailable Saturday as he continues to recover from a groin injury, but Fuller stepped up incredibly well in his absence. The true freshman has gained tremendous amounts of confidence over the course of this season, and it’s reflecting in his play.

As TCU trailed by 12 early in the second half, Fuller willed the Frogs back into the game. He embarked on a personal 5-0 scoring run, aided by his incredible defense, and he had a hockey assist that helped TCU get on a fast break, resulting in a Dennis layup that cut the deficit to five.

It was then that Desmond Bane got involved.

Bane scored 17 points from the 12:03 mark to the 3:03 mark of the second half, leading TCU on a 23-11 run over that same amount of time, and giving the Frogs a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Baylor woke up in the last three minutes and made a furious attempt to come back. A three cut TCU’s lead to 71-68 with 22 seconds remaining, but TCU quickly broke the press and PJ Fuller slammed home a fast break dunk.

Seconds later, Fuller’s fellow freshman Diante Smith hit two huge free throws as TCU held on late for the victory.

The Frogs now sit at 16-13 (7-9) with two games remaining in the regular season - they head to Kansas for a midweek contest this Wednesday, before closing out the season at home on Saturday against Oklahoma.