By Jeff Wilson
Frogs Today senior writer
Down 20 points just before the end of the first half and down 18 at halftime, the TCU men needed a massive rally — and not just on the court.
They needed to rebound mentally after watching a close game at the T-Mobile Center in Kansas City, Mo., turn into a rout.
In an instance when it looked like the best they could do was play for pride or save face with the NCAA Tournament selection committee, the Horned Frogs were looking to win their quarterfinal game in the Big 12 tournament against No. 22 Texas.
“Basketball is a game of runs,” Frogs guard Damion Baugh said. “They had their run, so it was time for us to make ours.”
Boy, did they.
The fifth-seeded Frogs dominated the second half en route to a 65-60 victory that moved them into the tourney semifinals Friday night against top-seeded Kansas. Texas led 40-22 at halftime, but TCU outscored the Longhorns 43-20 in the second half with hot shooting, terrific defense and better defense on the perimeter.
Baugh led all scorers with 17 points, and he and fellow guard Mike Miles Jr. scored 11 points apiece in the second half. Miles finished with 13 points and Eddie Lampkin Jr. scored 10, including the go-ahead layup with 39.2 seconds to play.
“Being down 18 at half in Division I basketball is not easy to come back from, let alone to do that in the Big 12,” said forward Emanuel Miller, who scored nine points and grabbed 12 rebounds. “I thought this team showed grit. I thought we fought together. I thought as a group we showed what TCU basketball is about.”
The comeback was the largest by unranked team against a ranked team in more than 12 years. It was the largest TCU comeback under coach Jamie Dixon.
If for some reason TCU hadn’t clinched a berth to the NCAA Tournament, their school-record fifth over a ranked opponent should do.
The Frogs avoided a third loss this season to Texas, which won in a January blowout in Fort Worth and rallied from a 10-point second-half deficit last month in Austin. But the Longhorns looked to be on cruise control late in the first half.
TCU (20-11) trailed 20-19 with 5:47 remaining but watched Texas (21-11) go on a 20-1 run. The Longhorns connected for four 3-pointers during the run while TCU missed six straight shots.
The lone point was a free throw by Micah Peavy. Miles finally scored his first points of the half on a layup 26 seconds before halftime.
Halftime wasn’t a pity party. It was a love fest.
“The message was to stay confident, not to get down on ourselves,” Miles said. “We knew it wasn’t going to be easy to come back from an 18-point lead, but we stayed together and ultimately came back.”
The Frogs used an 11-0 run in the second half — playing more than two minutes without Miles as he sat with an ankle injury — to surge to a 53-52 lead with 6:45 to go on a short jumper by Miller.
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The lead changed hands four times until Baugh found Lampkin coming out of a timeout in the final minute. He then pulled down a critical rebound on Texas’ next possession, and Francisco Farabello all but iced the game with two free throws with 15.9 seconds to go.
“I was confident,” Farabello said. “I got to the line with a peaceful mindset, just took my time knocking them down. I know they were pretty important. I know knocking them down sealed the game.”
Baugh finished things off with another free throw, but the rally to an improbable victory started at halftime.
“Just proud of how they handled that deficit,” Dixon said. “I think the biggest message we had was, ‘Guys, we just missed shots, and we can respond. We can respond, and we will. We will.”
Jeff Wilson, email@example.com