“Welcome to the Big 12, every game is going to be like this, obviously we lost a one-pointer with a one-point lead and this time we had a 12-point lead, and they fought back and battled as you might expect,” TCU head coach Jamie Dixon said. “I’m proud of our guys and how they fought through it.”
After losing a 12-point edge that the Horned Frogs built just over a minute into the game, it looked as though déjà vu from their one-point loss to Oklahoma was going to strike TCU once again.
“We have to address how when we have 12-point, 13-point lead, and teams get more aggressive so we have to respond to it in a better way and finish it out,” Dixon said. “That’s a big thing we can take from it.”
Baylor slowly chipped away at the TCU, as the Horned Frogs lead by eight at the break, 36-28. TCU shot 50 percent from the floor, including 4-of-9 on three-pointers in the first half, while the Bears couldn’t hit from distance in their first six attempts. The rebound edge was dead even at 16, but that was about to change.
Lual-Acuil Jr. pounded TCU down low all night, scoring a game-high 28 points to go along with 11 rebounds.
“He’s a tremendous player on the low-block, he’s hard to stop with the jump hook over the left shoulder,” TCU forward JD Miller said. “We just tried to maintain him.”
His frontcourt partner Terry Maston added 20 points and nine rebounds. The Baylor tandem caused a number of Horned Frogs to suffer from foul trouble as Ahmed Hamdy fouled out with 11:03 left in regulation with Vladimir Brodziansky and JD Miller saddled with three and four fouls respectively.
After Baylor evened up the contest at 64 with 17 seconds left to play, the Horned Frogs opted not to call a timeout and wound up with a Desmond Bane three-point attempt to beat the buzzer that bounced off the front of the rim following a Vladimir Brodziansky kick out of a double-team.
“It’s a wide-open three by our best shooter, and I didn’t call a timeout because I didn’t want them to set up their defense, but you take a wide-open by your best shooter, we did what we needed to do,” Dixon said. “We got an inside touch, and sometimes they don’t go, but we don’t blame or question because we continue to do the right things.”
Bane finished with 10 points against the Bears and had a career-high six assists as well as tying his career high in steals with three.
Once overtime began, it was clear what the Horned Frog offensive approach was: pound the paint. Brodziansky scored nine of TCU’s 17 extra session points.
Brodziansky led TCU in scoring with 18 points, and Miller had 13 points against Baylor.
The Horned Frogs capped their first Big 12 victory with a Kouat Noi breakaway dunk that put TCU up five with 12 seconds to play.
“That put the stamp on it right there, and we got the W in Waco, feels good,” TCU guard Kenrich Williams said.
The victory was extra special for the Horned Frogs’ do-it-all guard who is a Waco native and attended high school at Waco University.
“I can’t even explain the feeling, I’m just thanking the guys in the locker room because I haven’t beat Baylor and every time we come back here the previous three years we’re getting beat by 20 so to get this win like they did I appreciate it,” Williams said.
Williams said he had roughly 25 family and friends at the game.
A key factor in TCU’s road win was its work at the free throw line to close the game: The Horned Frogs shot 10-for-10 at the line in the final four minutes and overtime after starting 7-for-15.
While the Horned Frogs lost the battle down low, getting out-rebounded by 11 (45-34) and out-scored in the paint by 14 (52-38), Dixon liked how his team took care of the ball, losing the ball just 11 times to Baylor’s 14. TCU scored 15 points off the 14 Bear giveaways.
“We have to finish a little better around the basket, but only 11 turnovers on the road in a 45-minute game,” Dixon said. “The biggest thing I like about this group is what we’ve done turnover-wise.”
No. 16 TCU’s next challenge is hosting No. 10 Kansas in Fort Worth. The Jayhawks have won the last 13 Big 12 regular season titles and will be looking to avenge their first Big 12 loss after a 12-point home defeat, 85-73, to Texas Tech. Tip-off at Schollmaier Arena is set for 8:15 p.m.