Luckily for head coach Trent Johnson and his squad, the tables would turn in the second half.
Using a series of runs sparked by Malique Trent, Chris Washburn, and Brandon Parrish, the TCU men’s basketball team Saturday,came back and outscored Tennessee 48-22 in the second half to win 75-63 on Saturday.
The win snapped a five-game losing streak for the Horned Frogs. In the postgame press conference, it was clear that a weight had been lifted off the team’s shoulders.
“Coming into this game, we felt like this was a need-to-win game,” said junior forward Chris Washburn. “The way everything’s been going, we’ve lost 5 straight games, it was a need-to-win.”
“Sometimes people question our confidence — sometimes we question our confidence,” junior forward Brandon Parrish said. “A game like this gets team morale back up going into conference play.”
Washburn and Parrish were key players in the Frogs’ comeback. They each tallied 14 points, and Washburn added 9 rebounds — six of them offensive — and 3 steals.
Karviar Shepherd also had a good game for TCU with 13 points and 6 boards.
Still, it was sophomore guard Malique Trent that provided the biggest boost for TCU. The Frogs were 23 points better than their opposition with Trent on the floor, and he played every minute of the second half.
He led the team with 15 points, including a highlight-reel dunk through contact with 55 seconds remaining. The dunk even impressed his teammates.
“A beautiful way to close the show,” Parrish said with a smile after the game. “He’s got some bounce.”
“Malique’s a really aggressive guard,” Washburn said. “He opens up a lot of stuff, because he’s always in the lane, and defenses have to respect that. When he’s on the court, we’re a much more aggressive team.”
While the offensive highlights were plentiful, Johnson said his team’s effort on defense was the difference in the second half.
“The second half, we had great energy,” Johnson said. “We did a good job of chasing them off the 3-point line and making them bounce it.”
The contrast between Tennessee’s first and second-half shooting statistics was startling. The Volunteers were 8-16 in the first half from beyond the arc but were an ice-cold 0-15 after halftime.
“They made tough shots in the first half,” Washburn said. “They had the same looks in the second half, and they just didn’t go down — but that’s basketball.”
In the first half, there were no signs that either team would struggle offensively.
Scoring came fast and easy for both teams after some opening jitters. Chauncey Collins hit two 3-pointers in the first six minutes, but UT’s three triples kept it close. The Volunteers largely stayed away from challenging the Frogs’ interior defense, while TCU capitalized on offensive rebounds and trips to the line.
That all changed as TCU suddenly found themselves both unable to solve Tennessee’s zone and went cold from the field, while the Volunteers found their stroke from deep.
The Frogs scored only 11 points in the final 13:55 of the half, which allowed Tennessee to hold the halftime lead. Kevin Punter had 15 points at the half for the Vols, and it seemed like nothing was breaking TCU’s way.
But TCU opened up the second half with a 10-0 run fueled by 3-pointers from Trent and Parrish. The Frogs chipped away at Tennessee’s lead until Trent’s free throws with 7:59 remaining gave the purple and white a 56-55 lead.
TCU would never trail from that point on, and the Schollmaier Arena crowd was on their feet for the majority of the second half as the Frogs slowly pulled away.
Both teams exited the game with 10-11 records. TCU is still undefeated against the SEC under Trent Johnson, and the Frogs notched their first win in nine tries under Johnson against Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes, who formerly coached at Texas.
The game was played as part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge, which is in its 3rd year.
TCU can’t afford to celebrate the victory too long. As Johnson noted, a tougher test is on the horizon.
“Our reward for beating this team is we have a day off tomorrow, then we gotta go out and practice hard and play the number one team in the country in Norman, Oklahoma,” Johnson said.
Tipoff for that game against the Sooners is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday.