After losing both matchups to TCU in the regular season, Texas looked to change the narrative on Tuesday night. In Shaka Smart’s second (but not as glamorous) final four appearance as a coach, his team was matched up against a conference foe in TCU. This meant that Texas needed to thoroughly observe their struggles from their 2 losses against the Horned Frogs during the regular season. Luckily for Texas, their defensive approach was spot on for the occasion.
Early on, Texas relied on the scoring of Jase Febres and Kerwin Roach (off the bench), who combined for the first 12 Texas points of the game. After a few lead changes, Texas extended a 16-14 lead to a 23-14 lead before a TCU timeout was called. A combination of tenacious Texas defense and inefficient TCU offense helped to create a larger lead for Texas from there. The Longhorns finished the half on a 15-3 run, capitalized by a Roach finger roll, bringing a 31-17 lead into halftime.
Texas shined defensively in the first half, forcing bad shots from TCU and not committing many unnecessary fouls. Granted, the new reset rule for team fouls that the NIT is experimenting with helps with low foul count already. Due to this low foul count for Texas, TCU also stayed off the free throw line. The Texas offense had some struggles, as they missed four open layups in the half, which could have put this game out of reach for TCU. It will be interesting to see how Shaka deals with those offensive struggles on Thursday night.
As Texas fans have seen throughout the season, Texas started the second half off slow. Within a few minutes, TCU made the score 38-33, cutting the lead to 5 points. But just as Texas fans were remembering the 18-point comeback staged by Baylor this season, Texas came out of their rut. Within another few minutes, Texas extended their lead to 11 points, up 44-33. From this point, Texas easily controlled the tempo, as the abysmal shooting of TCU continued until the end of the game. Although TCU forced some stupid mistakes from Texas on inbound situations (Osetkowski stepping out of bounds with the ball during full-court press), Texas stayed in control. By the final whistle, Texas got out of this matchup comfortably, winning 58-44.
Texas did not play as well on defense in the second half, but the TCU offense maintained their same shooting inconsistencies from the first half. Osetkowski had a strong second half, finishing with 13 points and 9 rebounds on the night. From the contributions of Osetkowski, Roach (22 points) and Febres (8 points), Texas easily commanded the game for most of the second half.
Texas Defense Crucial to Success. – Although TCU’s poor shooting played a role in the Longhorns’ win, the defense is what ultimately won this game for Texas. The team forced TCU to a 28.3% field goal percentage (17-60), 11 turnovers, and a 19.0% 3-point field goal percentage (4-21). This defensive poise will be critical in determining the result in the NIT final.
Kerwin Roach’s Success and Struggles. – Kerwin Roach had plenty of opportunities on Tuesday night, as he led the team in scoring with 22 points. He had flashes of greatness, fooling the TCU defense time and time again. But he also had plenty of mistakes, especially from the free throw line. He only made 3 of his 9 free throws on the night, which could be crucial in a closer game. Additionally, he missed many layup opportunities that could have extended the Texas lead to 20 points in the first half. These chances are critical to convert at the next level, so he needs to work on these aspects of his game.
Texas will take on Lipscomb at Madison Square Garden for the NIT Championship on Thursday, April 4th at 6:00 PM CST, televised on ESPN.
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