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TCU 80, Arizona 85: Heartbreak in March

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This team accomplished things no TCU Basketball team has in over 35 years. What a season.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament Second Round San Diego-TCU vs Arizona Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Heartbreak in March.

After an incredible effort, TCU Basketball’s season comes to an end with an 85-80 overtime loss against the 1-seed Arizona Wildcats.

Before we get into the nitty gritty of what transpired tonight, every single living soul that has ever donned the purple and white should be incredibly proud of what this group accomplished.

“I just can’t thank them enough,” said head coach Jamie Dixon. “I’m so proud of them. And I think we just, TCU basketball, I just think I told them they made millions of fans tonight by watching this game. And the challenge now is to handle it the right way after this loss.”

Finishing 5th in the Big 12 when projected to finish 8th, piling up EIGHT Q1 wins in the regular season, winning a tournament game for the first time since 1987, and giving the No. 2 ranked team in the country a run for their money; this team was truly special.

There were several moments late in the game where it looked like TCU had it in the bag, but the Wildcats made big plays when they needed to. I could write a separate article entirely on the horrid officiating crew from tonight, but this is basketball, it is what it is and we can’t change anything about it, unfortunately.

Whether this game is pinned on the officials or just a series of unfortunate events; I’ll leave that for you to decide. One moment stood out in particular: Mike Miles was dribbling near halfcourt tied 75-75 with under 10 seconds on the clock, essentially gets thrown to the ground, yet no foul call.

Here’s what Miles had to say about it postgame: “We deserved to win that game and we didn’t,” said Miles. “I wouldn’t say it was not a foul, but it as a foul. They didn’t call it. It is what it is.”

Dixon took a different approach when asked a similar question.

“They’ve been class all year long and we’re going to handle it the right way,” said Dixon. “So we’ll defer to – we’ve got the best officials in the country working these games. And that’s the situation we were in.”

Regardless of the questionable officiating the Frogs never let a bad foul call hinder their determination and gritty style of play.

Not even a daunting 67-58 deficit with under 8 minutes remaining or a relentless Arizona crowd put a dent in the Frogs’ efforts. They climbed right back in it with a sensational run to eventually force OT.

“We just knew the game wasn’t over,” said Miles in reference to the Frogs’ comeback run.

The Frogs needed to play a near-perfect game if they wanted to keep up with the high-flying Arizona offense (84.6 ppg), and they did exactly that. Although the result didn’t go their way, I can hardly think of a complaint from tonight’s gameplan and execution. Aside from maybe knocking down more free throws during regulation…

Chuck was feeling it from deep, Eddie played the game of his life, Mike Miles hit clutch buckets when the Frogs needed it most, not to mention Micah Peavy and Damion Baugh’s relentless effort on defense; you couldn’t have asked for a better performance from this group on the biggest stage in college basketball.

Statistically, Chuck O’Bannon lit up the stat sheet with a career-high 23 points including FIVE three pointers. He also stacked on 5 rebounds and a game-high 4 steals.

Lampkin and Miles weren’t far behind as both finished with 20 points. Lampkin added to his career day with career-high 14 rebounds to complete the big man’s double-double.

“He’s [Lampkin] gotten so much better since the first time we stepped on campus last year,” said Miles. “I’m proud of him. In the biggest game of his life, he played the most minutes.”

As a team, TCU finished the night shooting 35.1% from the field and 23.1% from 3-PT range. The Frogs outrebounded their opponent for the 28th time this season (48-44) and scored 19 points off of 16 forced turnovers.

This game was as close on paper as it appeared in person. There were 11 lead changes, 13 separate occasions where the teams were tied, and a near-even split in terms of time leading. TCU finished with 17:08 of lead time, Arizona with 21:34, and the teams were tied for 6:19 of game time.

The Frogs weren’t expected to do much in this ballgame as national media has a ton of respect for the Wildcats (as they should), but for the millionth time this season, this team proved they belong in the conversation.

Nobody expected the Frogs to win, but that’s exactly why a close loss like this hurts so deep.

“This season was everything for us because we weren’t even expected to be here,” said O’Bannon. “And for us to win our first game and be that close with the No. 1 seed just shows we have a bunch of guys with a log of grit. That’s all you can ask for.”

Along with the players, the Horned Frog faithful should have absolutely nothing to hang their heads about. I’ve said it numerous times and I’ll continue saying it for years to come: this is a special group of student-athletes.

It sucks, it’s not fun, but it is what it is and now we can look back and be thankful for all the memories this team gave us this season. A 21-13 final record, huge upsets over Kansas and Tech, and an NCAA Tournament win; what more can you ask for from a team projected to finish third to last in their conference?

If they weren’t already, this game put TCU Basketball on the map. This group only scraped the surface of what the program is capable of in the near future.

Win or lose, it’s always a great day to be a Horned Frog. This team will be back, and you can bet the house on that.