It was going to be an uphill battle for the Fort Worth Funk in their inaugural appearance in The Basketball Tournament. A big underdog against a veteran Team Arkansas team, the Funk struggled out of the gate, quickly falling behind 7-0 in the opening minutes.
But the nucleus of Alex Robinson, Brandon Parrish, and JD Miller got their team back in it, riding the hot shooting of late addition Al Johns (Pepperdine/UC Davis) to score eight straight and take the lead. The two teams traded blows in the first quarter, with Arkansas closing the first quarter on a 9-2 run across the final 2:41 after the two teams deadlocked at 13-13.
Arkansas stretched the lead to as much as 11 points in the second, as Kavion Pippen — nephew of Scottie — got involved on both ends of the floor. But the story of the first half for the veteran Team Arkansas was Dusty Hannahs, a 6’4” shooting guard who spent time with the Razorbacks and Texas Tech. Hannahs, a veteran of TBT, had 14 first half points as Arkansas went into the locker room with a ten point team.
I don’t know what Funk coach Lee Nailon, wearing a shirt with his college coach, Billy Tubbs, on it, said to his team at half time, but whatever it was, bottle it up and send it to Jamie Dixon. The Funk came out a completely different team in the third quarter, outscoring Team Arkansas 23-12 to take a one point lead into the final frame. They forced four turnovers in the third as former Frogs JD Miller and Alex Robinson dominated on both ends of the floor. Miller scored six straight for the Funk after Brandon Parrish opened the second half with a three, with the two TCU alums pulling FTF to within two. Robinson took over from there, scoring nine of the final 14 points of the quarter for the Funk, who took a 53-52 lead into the final frame of play.
The fourth quarter was an entertaining back and forth affair, with the two teams trading baskets — and turnovers — as the clock ticked down to the magic four minute mark that would trigger the tournament’s signature Elam Ending. Tied at 57 with six minutes to play, Arkansas outscored the Funk 9-2 over the next two and a half minutes, fouling with 3:35 to play to trigger the Elam Ending with a target score of 74.
To explain for those that may not be familiar, the Elam Ending means this:
At the first whistle at or under the four minute mark, the game clock is turned off and a target point total is set, eight points over the current score of the team in the lead.
The way it worked Friday, the Funk would need to beat Arkansas to 74, meaning they needed to nearly double Arkansas’ output before their opponent scored eight. They were going to have to get it done on both ends of the floor, and looked to their leaders to get it done.
Brandon Parrish was known for his motor during his time at TCU, and that was on full display down the stretch for the Funk. He forced a turnover and got a layup on one end and tied up Hannahs on the other, helping his team get back within five points at 68-63. Braylon Rayson, another late addition, got the Funk within three with a nifty left handed layup, and Miller drew a shooting foul — hitting one — and tied the game up after a change of position to tie the game at 68.
But Jaylen Barford, who has G League experience, kept attacking, hitting two free throws to pull Arkansas within four of the magic number. Miller responded with a mid-range jumper of his own, and the Funk trailed 71-70 when Arkansas called timeout after missed layups by Miller and Robinson — just a made three pointer away from taking the win.
The two teams traded misses and turnovers out of the break, but an offensive rebound by Hannahs led to a made corner three by Jones to end the game.
JD Miller was the hero for the Funk, scoring 13 of his team high 20 points in the second half. Robinson (11) and Parrish (10) also poured in double digits, with Rayson and Ziegler combining for 17 points as well. Arkansas was led by Barford’s 23.
In a familiar refrain for Frog fans, the Funk struggled at the free throw line, making just 9 of their 15 attempts. They hit on 7-21 three pointers and shot 45% from the field overall. The Funk were out-rebounded 44-39 but had fewer turnovers (13 to 16) and more steals (5-4) than their opponent.
It was a fun run for the Funk, who came within a bounce or two of pulling off a big time round one upset. Hopefully, this will be just year one of what becomes an annual tradition for TCU Basketball and the TBT.