AUSTIN, Texas (AP) When even the 14-percent free-throw shooter was stepping up and swishing them, Texas knew it was in for an unusual win.
Prince Ibeh scored a career-high 17 points and the Longhorns got an offensive boost from some unlikely places in cruising past TCU 71-54 on Tuesday night.
The senior center added 10 rebounds and five blocks, and found his stroke from the free-throw line, making five of six from there. When he made two in a row midway through the second half, Ibeh got a raucous standing ovation from a home crowd that was ready to wince every time he stepped up to the shot.
”I don’t know how to describe that,” Ibeh said. ”I’ve been shooting free throws well in practice. Tonight after seeing one go in, I settled down.”
Texas (13-7, 5-3 Big 12) also got a career-high 22 points from freshman guard Kerwin Roach, Jr.
Roach, whose superb athletic ability has yet to translate into big minutes or consistent scoring in Big 12 play, was 6 of 9 shooting and also grabbed five rebounds for the Longhorns.
Malique Trent and Chris Washburn scored nine points apiece, and Devonta Abron added seven points and eight rebounds for TCU (9-11, 1-7), which dropped its fifth straight game.
For Texas, the win comes in a stretch where every victory builds confidence as first-year Texas coach Shaka Smart readies his team for the second-half of a rugged Big 12 schedule.
Getting more games like this one from Ibeh could be critical. Texas has been in search of dependable inside scoring ever since center Cam Ridley was sidelined by surgery to repair a broken bone in his foot shortly after Christmas.
”Sometimes an opportunity comes a guy’s way and they make the most of it. His confidence is growing,” Smart said.
TCU beat the Longhorns in their first matchup in Fort Worth on Jan. 9 but the Horned Frogs were barely in this one as they struggled with Texas’ pressure defense, poor shooting and an inability to stop Texas from scoring almost at will near the basket. Texas opened up a 10-point lead by halftime.
”They cause a lot of problems with their perimeter players both offensively and defensively. We knew they were going to bring pressure,” TCU coach Trent Johnson said.
Texas guards Isaiah Taylor and Javan Felix, the catalysts for Texas’ biggest wins this season, took a back seat early in a ragged game that saw 27 turnovers in the first half. Texas shrugged off its own tough shooting night – 0-7 on 3-pointers in the first half – and outscored TCU 36-20 in the paint.
Texas found its touch from long range just in time to snuff out TCU’s only real hope for a rally. The Horned Frogs opened the second half with a 3-pointer by Brandon Parish before Felix answered at the other end.
A few minutes later, TCU had a chance to pull within three, but misfired on three straight possessions before Felix made another 3-pointer and Texas quickly pushed the lead back up to 48-36.
TCU: After their first meeting, TCU’s scouting report likely noted contesting Texas on 3-pointers and keeping Taylor in check. Ibeh turned into an unexpected matchup problem. Ibeh had just six points and five rebounds against TCU when the Horned Frogs won.
Texas: Texas got sloppier than usual but it didn’t end up costing the Longhorns very much. Their 15 turnovers snapped a five-game streak of having less than 10.
”I kind of had a feeling that was coming,” Smart said.
Texas is 4-1 since losing to TCU in the third game of the Big 12 schedule. That run has included big wins over league title contenders Iowa State and West Virginia. The only loss was on the road at Kansas.
Ibeh called losing to TCU three weeks ago a turning point for the Longhorns.
”Everyone had to look in the mirror and realize we were digging ourselves in a hole,” Ibeh said.
TCU hosts Tennessee on Saturday
Texas hosts Vanderbilt on Saturday