Down goes No. 1: Frogs stun Kansas, advance to Big 12 Semis with 85-82 win

TCU's slim NCAA Tournament hopes stayed alive by knocking off No. 1 Kansas - in one of the biggest wins in the last decade.

March Madness doesn’t officially begin until next week, but a little dose of it came early in Kansas City Thursday afternoon, as TCU knocked off No. 1 Kansas 85-82 to advance to the Big 12 Tournament Semifinals.

After blowing an 11-point second-half lead and going down by four points with less than two minutes to play, the Frogs regrouped to take a three-point lead with less than five seconds to go when Desmond Bane was fouled on a three-point jumper. Bane made all three shots from the line the Jayhawks missed a three-point shot at the buzzer, securing what may have been the biggest win in program history for TCU while a pro-Kansas crowd walked away stunned from the Sprint Center.

The win was the Horned Frogs' first over a No. 1 ranked team in program history and the first over a ranked since previously defeating the Oklahoma State in Fort Worth in 2015.

''It took everybody. It took the whole team,'' TCU head coach Jamie Dixon said. ''Great win for our program and our school.”

And it may have been just what TCU needed to get right back in the talks of an NCAA Tournament bid. Once a projected eight seed, a seven-game losing streak to cap off the regular season took the Frogs all but out of the tournament talk. That has all changed now that TCU has a win against the best team in the land on its resume and is only two wins removed from a Big 12 Title.

"I felt this was an NCAA tournament team that didn't get it done for a stretch there and maybe we had to grow into it and maybe we're growing now rather than two weeks ago," Dixon said.

The Frogs encountered a bit of a break before the contest even started, as Kansas entered the game without freshman Josh Jackson, who was serving a one-game suspension for a recent traffic citation. That wouldn’t faze the Jayhawks early on however, jumping out to a 19-8 lead within the first four minutes of the contest. Kansas star point guard Devonte Graham left the game briefly after limping off the court in the first half, but would return before the final buzzer en route to a 10-point performance.

The Frogs, however, refused to give-up against the No. 1 team in the nation. Down 39-27 late in the first half, TCU erupted seemingly out of nowhere for a 16-3 run, taking a one-point lead into halftime up 43-42. The Frogs struck from beyond the arc three times during the stretch.

That was just the beginning of a portion which TCU dominated. Within less than seven minutes out of halftime, TCU had expanded its incredible run to 33-10, holding a 60-49 lead over the Jayhawks with 13:55 to play.

With the crowd on their side though, the Jayhawks wouldn’t go down quietly, embarking on a 21-10 run of their own to regain the lead in the final seven minutes of the contest, 71-70.

The Frogs didn’t help themselves either when Kenrich Williams, who recorded a team-high 18 points, fouled out of the contest with 3:12 to play, down 77-76. Kansas had earned a huge break moments earlier when a shot more than three minutes prior had been reviewed and ruled a three-pointer, giving the Jayhawks a one-point edge rather than tying it up when they went to the line down 76-75.

TCU’s season appeared to be heading to an end when Kansas had the ball up 80-76 with less than two minutes to play, the Frogs having squandered a possession on a pass that sailed out of bounds. To consecutive fouls, however, gave TCU two two-shot trips the line, and Alex Robinson and Brandon Parrish each made their shots to tie it up at 80. Robinson finished with 13 points and seven rebounds while Parrish was right behind him at 12 points.

Moments later after Kansas came up empty at the other end, Robison struck again with a layup to put TCU up 82-80 with only 22 seconds to spare, only to be called for a controversial foul against Frank Mason III at the other end as he went to the line and tied things back up 82. Mason III finished the day with a game-high 29 points – nobody else finishing with more than 18.

With less than half a minute to play, the Frogs milked the clock down in hopes of sinking a game-winning shot with no time left. Bane took a three-point shot from the corner that was blocked, but a foul was called, sending to Bane to the line for three shots with only 2.2 seconds to play. He made all three to put TCU up 85-82.

"We ran a high-ball screen for one of our better penetrators, Alex Robinson, and I know he likes to throw that drift pass to the corner and I was spotting up, hands-free, ready, and he found me and I shot and luckily I got fouled."

Bane said the support from his teammates after taking the foul was critical to his success at the line.

“All of my teammates came up to me, tried to calm me down, make sure everything was cool,'' Bane said. “I stepped up and knocked them down.''

Moments later, the Frogs were celebrating, having finally gotten over the hump in a close contest against a premier Big 12 opponent. Senior Brandon Parrish said the win was unlike anything else.

“This is the win of my career right here, to be completely honest,'' Parrish said. ''This is the high point of my whole career. I'm just happy to have these guys, my brothers, here with me.''

The Frogs finished the game out-shooting the Jayhawks 49 percent to 45 percent. TCU was also able to win the rebounding battle once again, owning a 36-31 edge when the final buzzer sounded.

With the shocker behind them, the Frogs will still have plenty of work to do if they look to be still playing basketball beyond this weekend, as the win over the Jayhawks alone likely won’t be enough to save the team’s RPI from the sluggish ending to the regular season. An improbable Big 12 Title, however, would send TCU to the promised land.

"All we did today was make free throws down the stretch, and that's what we hadn't done and I think that's growth and I think that's maturity and I'm looking forward to getting ready for tomorrow, and I know these guys are as well," Dixon said. 

The next hurdle will be taking down the Iowa State Cyclones in the Big 12 Tournament Semifinals on Friday night, who have been playing as well as ever during the tail end of the season. The Frogs defeated Iowa State 84-77 at home in January before losing in Ames last month, 84-71. 

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