Wednesday, February 6, 2013
TCU drops Kansas in upset of the season
By Eamonn Brennan
It left Kansas fans disgusted, TCU fans dumbstruck, and Horned Frogs coach Trent Johnson wandering among court-storming students, offering high-fives and twirling around and looking like a man who had no idea what to do next.
It was the biggest upset of the season. It was also the weirdest.
Wipe your eyes as many times as you like. It happened. The previously 9-12 TCU Horned Frogs, losers of their previous eight games, owners of the 330th-ranked efficiency offense in the country prior to Wednesday night, really did upset the No. 5-ranked Kansas Jayhawks62-55 in Fort Worth -- the first win over a top-five team in program history.
The obvious question is: How? How does a team so good, so routinely effective both at home and on the road, lose to such a dismal outfit like TCU?
Here's where the weirdness comes in: Kansas shot just 29.5 percent from the field -- 18-of-61 -- and just 3-of-22 from beyond the arc. Ben McLemore, the man who saved Kansas from a home upset to Iowa State with a 33-point, 10-for-12 night Jan. 9, went just 6-of-16 from the field and 0-of-6 from 3. Jeff Withey was effective but rarely touched the ball. Reserve guard Naadir Tharpe attempted a borderline-shocking 15 field goals -- Tharpe should never shoot the ball 15 times -- and made just two of them. And then there was Elijah Johnson, who, already firmly ensconced in Bill Self's doghouse, continued not only his shooting slump but his streak of poor decision-making and ill-timed turnovers.
Garlon Green gets the hero treatment after his game-high 20 points in the upset of Kansas.
It would be unfair to place all the blame for the loss at the Jayhawks' feet, to ignore what TCU did well in its own right. So: The Horned Frogs drew 29 fouls and shot 38 free throws, not all of which were the product of the Jayhawks' last-ditch attempts at a comeback. Johnson's team -- who you don't know, but which includes guys with awesome names like Nate Butler Lind, Connell Crossland, Adrick McKinney, Garlon Green and Kyan Anderson, and that's just the starters -- made enough of those free throws down the stretch to maintain a lead. It also took care of the ball when it needed to, grabbed timely rebounds, and got stops. Kansas doesn't shoot 30 percent in an empty gym.
Even so, you couldn't watch this game and not come away more willing to indict Kansas than praise TCU. I mean, good for the Horned Frogs -- this is a rare moment in the sun for a program with almost no historical relevance whatsoever, and it should be enjoyed as such. But it was Kansas that failed to pressure the Horned Frogs well enough to generate easy points; it was Kansas that squandered mini-run after mini-run, and flung brick after increasingly forlorn brick into the unforgiving iron.
All the while, TCU fans -- who were possibly out-attended by Kansas fans -- had no idea what to do. At one point, the ESPNU cameras showed the Horned Frogs cheerleaders jumping around and cheering seemingly at random, and while cheer groups do that all the time, I joked that it was probably because they hadn't drilled for the possibility of actually, you know, cheering. It felt that way: TCU fans mustered a "T-C-U, T-C-U" midway through the second half, but mostly they just seemed to sit there and do their best to process the weirdness happening in front of them.
Then they stormed the court.
That's when Johnson, in a move reminiscent of the classic clip of NC State coach Jim Valvano, started to walk off the court, then thought better of it, then offered a few high-fives to onrushing fans -- he, like the rest of the arena, looked like he had no idea what to make of anything happened around him.
Understandably so. It was that big -- and that weird -- of an upset.