FORT WORTH, Texas – Mike Miles and the TCU Horned Frogs needed at least one victory in a stretch of four consecutive games against ranked opponents to help their case for the NCAA Tournament.
A second-half rally against No. 9 Texas Tech might have done the trick.
Miles scored 26 points, Xavier Cork dunked for the go-ahead bucket late and TCU rallied for a 69-66 victory in a wild back-and-forth finish Saturday night.
The Horned Frogs (18-9, 7-8 Big 12) trailed by 11 points early in the second half and went ahead for the first time after the break on a 3-pointer by Francisco Farabello for a 61-60 lead.
TCU’s victory came after losing a 10-point lead in the second half at 20th-ranked Texas. The next two are back-to-back against No. 5 Kansas before a regular-season finale at last-place West Virginia.
An eighth league win almost certainly would be enough. The seventh the Horned Frogs just secured might be.
“We’ve done a lot of things,” TCU coach Jamie Dixon said. “Our league is just ridiculous. There’s going to be some teams that are way better than other teams that make it as at-larges, just because the league’s so tough top to bottom.”
Farabello’s bucket started a stretch of seven consecutive possessions in which the lead changed hands inside the 4-minute mark, with equally loud cheers after each bucket because of the large red-clad Texas Tech contingent in the crowd.
The Horned Frogs finally protected the lead by forcing a shot-clock violation from the Red Raiders (22-7, 11-5) with 34 seconds left after Cork’s dunk put TCU ahead 67-66 with 1:11 remaining.
Miles made one of two free throws with 24 seconds to go before former Texas Tech player Micah Peavy stole an entry pass intended for Bryson Williams, who scored 21 points.
Peavy missed a free throw that would have put the Horned Frogs up four, but Terrence Shannon Jr. and Adonis Arms missed 3-pointers before Peavy got a rebound.
After Peavy missed two more free throws, the Red Raiders called timeout as the buzzer sounded, leading to 0.5 seconds being put on the clock. Williams caught the long inbound pass and hit a turnaround 3-pointer, but it was after the buzzer.
TCU students celebrated with players at midcourt with the officials roped off checking the replay, which confirmed that Williams’ shot was late. It was the end of a four-game Texas Tech winning streak that started with a victory over the Horned Frogs in Lubbock.
“In my gut, I felt like if we couldn’t separate when we were up six, eight, nine, 10 points, it was going to be a game,” first-year Texas Tech coach Mark Adams said. “We went back-and-forth at that margin for a while but they just started getting closer and closer and got some momentum and confidence. And we could never get it turned around.”
Emanuel Miller scored 11 points for the Horned Frogs, and Damion Baugh added 10.
Arms had 15 points for the Red Raiders, while Warren scored 12.
Texas Tech: The Red Raiders missed a chance to finish their first regular-season sweep of Baylor, Texas and TCU in 26 years. The last one was in 1995-96, the last season of the Southwest Conference. The Horned Frogs joined the Big 12 in 2012-13.
TCU: The Horned Frogs trailed for long stretches, and part of the reason they stayed close was solid 3-point shooting from Miles and Baugh. Both came in shooting less than 30% from long range. They combined to go 5 of 11.
The Red Raiders might have another one-week stay in the top 10 of The Associated Press poll. They got in for the first time two weeks ago, but a loss at Oklahoma knocked them out right away. This loss puts them at risk of dropping out again.
The split crowd made the back-and-forth finish more entertaining. Farabello’s go-ahead 3 sent a raucous student section into a frenzy, and the roar was just as loud when Arms answered with a dunk. Miles drove for an easy layup, then Tech got another dunk from Williams.
After two free throws from Williams, Warren hit a driving layup. Then Cork dunked on an assist from Miles. TCU shot 55% in the second half against one of the nation’s best teams in field goal percentage defense.
“It was a high-level game, which shouldn’t surprise you in this league and the way we’re playing and the way they’re playing,” Dixon said. “We know how good they are on the defensive end, so I’m sure they wonder about our shooting percentage against them.”
Texas Tech: The home finale is Monday against Kansas State.
TCU: The first of two against the Jayhawks is at home Tuesday. The rematch is Thursday in Lawrence, a game that was postponed in early January because of COVID-19 issues with the Horned Frogs.