KANSAS CITY, Mo. – It didn’t matter to TCU that it was playing just down the road from the Kansas campus in Lawrence, or that the Horned Frogs already had endured a taxing opening-round game in the Big 12 Tournament.
It probably mattered a great deal that the Jayhawks were missing star freshman Josh Jackson.
Regardless, the spunky underdogs from Fort Worth held on after squandering an 11-point second-half lead, and Desmond Bane’s three free throws with 2.5 seconds left gave the Horned Frogs an 85-82 victory over the nation’s top-ranked team in the quarterfinal round Thursday.
TCU will play No. 23 Iowa State, which topped Oklahoma State, in Friday night’s semifinals.
“It took everybody. It took the whole team,” said TCU coach Jamie Dixon, who has quickly turned around his alma mater in his first season. “Great win for our program, our school.”
The eighth-seeded Horned Frogs (19-14) trailed 80-76 with just over a minute remaining, but a parade of free throws knotted it, and Alex Robinson’s driving layup gave TCU the lead.
Frank Mason answered with a pair of free throws for Kansas (28-4), but the Horned Frogs got the ball to Bane in the corner and he was fouled by Svi Mykhailiuk while putting up a shot.
“All of my teammates came up to me, tried to calm me down, make sure everything was cool,” Bane said afterward, “and I stepped up and knocked them down.”
Then, Devonte Graham’s tying 3-pointer at the buzzer bounced harmlessly off the rim, and the Horned Frogs leaped off their benched to celebrate a massive upset of the tournament’s No. 1 seed.
“We tried,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said, “we just didn’t quite have it today.”
Kenrich Williams had 18 points, Robinson added 13 and Brandon Parrish had 12 for the Horned Frogs, who caught a break when Self suspended Jackson for the tournament opener.
Jackson was cited last month for hitting a parked car and fleeing the scene, and didn’t inform his coach of the legal trouble until Monday. It was the latest in a series of incidents involving the star freshman that drew Self’s ire and ultimately led to the punishment.
With a shortened bench, Mason wound up playing all 40 minutes and scored 29 points in a virtuoso performance. The other four starters also played at least 35 minutes, with Mykhailiuk scoring 18 points and forward Landen Lucas finishing with 13 points and 14 boards.
“We know that distractions happen and we have to eliminate them, especially in the postseason,” Lucas said. “I think we responded relatively well. We just came up a little bit short.”
The Jayhawks built a 39-27 lead late in the first half, thanks to Mykhailiuk’s hot shooting and Mason’s ability to get to the rim, but it disappeared after Dixon got a technical foul.
TCU’s coach barked across the court at one of the officials after Lagerald Vick’s basket gave the Jayhawks their biggest lead. Mason extended the advantage with two free throws, but it seemed as if the Horned Frogs began to channel Dixon’s intensity down the stretch.
They closed the half on a 16-3 run, highlighted by a trio of 3-pointers, and carried a 43-42 lead into the locker room when Carlton Bragg Jr. air-balled a jumper at the buzzer.
Early in the second half, it was Bill Self’s turn to boil over.
He took umbrage with a goaltending call that gave TCU a basket, and refused to back down even when Mykhailiuk tried to distract the official. But it didn’t have the same effect, at least right away – the Horned Frogs instead stretched their lead to 60-49 with 13:55 left.
The Jayhawks finally went on their run a few minutes later, Mason getting it started with a four-point play and then finishing it with a driving layup that gave Kansas a 71-70 lead.
When Williams fouled out with 3:12 to go, the Jayhawks looked poise to finish it off.
Instead, the Horned Frogs showed remarkable composure in the Jayhawks’ home-away-from-home. And when Graham’s heave from the wing bounced off the rim and the buzzer sounded, the tournament’s top seed was done in the quarterfinals for the first time in seven years.
“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.”
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