Texas grabbed a double-digit halftime lead and coasted for much of the second half, turning that 12-point lead into a 19-point advantage at one point. And while the Horned Frogs cut that lead down to nine points, first with a Garlon Green three-pointer with 7:02 left and then again with an Aldrick McKinney jumper with 5:38 remaining, and finally once more with a layup from Connell Crossland with 2:06 in the game, but TCU never got any closer.
"I'd say that's the one thing — they were more engaged tonight than ever," said Texas coach Rick Barnes. "We had more guys talking and really helping each other, but again, I think the real question is why [not being engaged] happens. That's where I think we get a lead and get lazy mentally. We think we can take a little time off."
Texas closed out well. Sheldon McClellan scored six of the game's final eight points, first on an and-one at the basket, then on a three-point basket with less than 20 seconds left.
TCU entered the game with the Big 12's least-efficient offense, and the Horned Frogs lived up to that reputation, shooting just 32.7 percent from the floor, 15.4 percent from three and making 46.7 percent of their free throws. The Horned Frogs did get decent games out of McKinney (13 points, eight boards) and Crossland (eight points, 12 rebounds), but Kyan Anderson and Charles Hill Jr., TCU's two main shot-takers, finished a combined 4-for-22.
But the Horned Frogs also had a decent defense coming in, one that was exploited by the typically offense-challenged Longhorns. Texas shot a blistering 52.3 percent as a team, the 'Horns' best mark against a major conference team this season. And the Longhorns did it consistently, shooting 50 percent in the first half, then making 55 percent of their shots in the second half.
"We had as many post feeds as we've had in a long, long time," Barnes said. "If you just look at the shots--the post guys got maybe half the shots. You had Papi (Ioannis Papapetrou) with nine shots, Prince (Ibeh) with three, Connor (Lammert) with six, Jaylen (Bond) with one, and Cam (Ridley) with four. So, we did that. We want to play inside out. We did a good job."
McClellan led all scorers with 15 points, while Papapetrou continued his nice run from the Longhorns' 'four' spot, scoring 13 points, grabbing nine rebounds and dishing out three assists to one turnover. Papapetrou also blocked two shots, teaming with Ridley (four blocks in 19 minutes) to stifle the Frogs on the interior.
TCU (9-12, 0-8) is still searching for its first Big 12 win after joining the conference this year. Texas (10-11, 2-6) has two more games left before Myck Kabongo is finished with his suspension.
"I think, again, with where we are, they are all really important," Barnes said. "There is a lot of basketball left to play. We need to make it happen. No one is going to give it to us. We did a lot of things that we wanted to do today. That was a really good thing. It's just those little things that are going to keep getting us unless we can really get totally into it. We haven't had our whole team, but hopefully that's going to happen pretty soon. It's going to get even more fun because accountability is a great coach. If you don't do it, step aside and let somebody else do it."
The Longhorns' next contest — a road showdown with West Virginia at 8 p.m. Monday — looms large. The Mountaineers staged a comeback win in early January to steal out of Austin with a notch in the victory column, and if Texas could do the same, it would be a big step in the right direction.