After knocking off No. 2 Houston, TCU falls to Cincinnati in overtime, 81-77

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Winning on the road is hard in the Big 12 and No. 19 TCU squandered opportunities to put Cincinnati away before losing in overtime, 81-77, Tuesday night.

“We’re disappointed by the loss,” coach Jamie Dixon said. “We had our opportunities in the first half with a big lead, had another big lead in the second half. We didn’t get it done. Points in the paint were a problem.”

TCU’s loss comes after a week in which it beat No. 9 Oklahoma and No. 2 Houston.

In Tuesday night’s game, the OT period was just as chaotic as the end of regulation. With the Horned Frogs clinging to a 73-72 lead with 2:38 remaining, Micah Peavy was elbowed near his eye by Bearcats guard John Newman. After the play was reviewed for nearly five minutes, no foul was assessed to Newman. On the Bearcats’ next possession, Viktor Lakhin nailed a corner 3-pointer for a 75-73 Cincinnati lead.

“I’m sure people will be talking about the call, but they shot 52 percent,” Dixon said. “We’ve got to get things done better. I think Micah is OK.”

Peavy tied the game at the free-throw line with 2:01 remaining on TCU’s next possession. After getting a stop, TCU forward Emanuel Miller was stripped by Newman, who was fouled on his ensuing shot attempt. Newman made both free throws and with 59.8 seconds left the Horned Frogs were down 77-75.

Jameer Nelson answered with a clutch basket through contact, sinking a floater to tie the game with 49 seconds remaining. Dan Skillings Jr. put Cincinnati back in front with a contested layup with 22 seconds remaining.

TCU’s JaKobe Coles missed a 3-pointer to retake the lead after he hesitated on the catch. Day Day Thomas made a pair of free throws to ice the game with less than six seconds remaining.

Trevian Tennyson led TCU with 17 points and five 3-pointers while Emanuel Miller had 15. Thomas and Newman combined for 41 points and both shot better than 50 percent to lead the Bearcats.

The little things

There are two areas that played the biggest factor in TCU’s loss — turnovers and free throws. TCU had a season-high 19 turnovers against the Bearcats. While Cincinnati settled in and played tougher defense after the opening blitz, it felt like many were unforced, especially in the case of Avery Anderson.

The transfer from Oklahoma State struggled with six turnovers and had numerous possessions where he simply got too deep into the paint was forced to take heavily contested shots or make difficult passes.

“They were overplaying while they were down, I think that’s something we have to recognize with time and score,” Dixon said. “It’s a situation where they’re going to be more aggressive. We talked about getting a lead and grinding them out and knowing the overplay and gambling is coming. We should be better, but we weren’t.”

The Horned Frogs also only hit five of their 10 free-throw attempts and had multiple chances in the final 2:30 to extend the lead and win the game. Dixon said he wasn’t overly concerned, citing the team’s success this season, but TCU has shot below 60% in two straight games.

A frantic end to regulation

After leading by double digits most of the first half, the Horned Frogs trailed to start the second half as the Bearcats leaned on the home crowd to get back into the game. However, with 4:24 remaining TCU had regained control of the game with a 64-60 lead.

TCU had multiple chances to increase the lead late, but missed two layups and then a pair of free throws, leading to a Cincinnati bucket on the other end that made it 66-64 with 2:12 remaining. On their next offensive possession, the Horned Frogs corralled three offensive rebounds to take a minute off the game clock, but they were unable to score.

Thomas would then make a contested corner 3 with 40.5 seconds remaining, but Tennyson immediately responded with a pull-up 3-pointer of his own to make it 67-65 with 18.4 seconds remaining. Thomas would hit an off-balanced, running layup to tie the game at 67.

Tennyson tried to hit the game-winner, but missed a 3-pointer. The Horned Frogs made a crucial mistake fouling Skillings with 3.7 seconds remaining. But he missed both free throws.

Ernest Udeh was then fouled on the rebound and went to the free throw line with 3.2 seconds remaining with a chance to put TCU in front. Udeh missed the first free throw and the Bearcats grabbed the rebound, but their desperation heave was off line.

Intense opening half

The Horned Frogs appeared poised to be on the verge of blowing out Cincinnati early with a torrid offensive start. TCU hit nine of its first 10 field goal attempts with Peavy, Tennyson and Nelson all chipping in with 3-pointers. Back-to-back 3s from Miller and Coles lifted TCU to a 26-16 with 13:22 remaining in the half.

“I loved how we played to start the game offensively, the ball really moved,” Dixon said. “We played with space and found open guys. We never got into that rhythm in the second half, I have to fix that.”

However, the Bearcats would limit the Horned Frogs to just 7 points the rest of the way as Cincinnati battled back in the game. One reason was the defense of transfer center Aziz Bandaogo. The 7-footer’s presence in the paint deterred TCU’s drives and he picked up two blocks in 10 minutes of action. After TCU took a 29-18 lead, Cincinnati used a 13-2 run to tie the game as Dan Skillings Jr. drained a corner 3 to tie at 31 with 2:33 remaining.

Nelson would finally end the surge with a much needed basket as the Horned Frogs went into the half clinging onto a 33-32 lead.

Next up for TCU is No. 24 Iowa State, at 1 p.m. Saturday in Fort Worth.