KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Everything seemed to be going against TCU entering the Big 12 Tournament. The Horned Frogs were coming off a lopsided loss to Oklahoma, they’d drawn a quarterfinal matchup against Kansas State for what felt like a road game, and some off-the-court issues threatened to become a distraction.
Mike Miles and Chuck O’Bannon made sure none of that mattered.
The duo hit four 3-pointers apiece and each had 22 points, silencing the heavily pro-Wildcats crowd and leading the No. 22 Horned Frogs to an 80-67 victory on Thursday night to reach the tournament semifinals.
TCU will face seventh-ranked Texas, which routed Oklahoma State in its quarterfinal, on Friday night.
“We all came together, knew what we needed to do,” Miles said. “When you make shots, everything is better. Chuck started to make shots. I started to make shots. And it gave us energy on the defensive end.”
TCU played without center Eddie Lampkin Jr., who posted screenshots on social media a day earlier of text messages that appeared to accuse coach Jamie Dixon of player mistreatment and “racial comments.” Dixon and the school have declined to comment on the posts other than to say Lampkin had stepped away from the team.
JaKobe Coles added eight points and Emanuel Miller seven for the sixth-seeded Horned Frogs (21-11), who had been beaten by the Wildcats in four of the past five tournaments but will now play for a spot in the title game.
“We didn’t really take any bad shots all game long. I would struggle to find one or two,” Dixon said. “We did a lot of shooting yesterday, we did a lot of shooting these last two days. The guys worked so hard, they focused, they were ready. My coaches came in after warmups and said, ‘They’re ready. They’re ready to play a good team.’”
Keyontae Johnson had 14 points and seven boards to lead the No. 3 seed Wildcats (23-9), though he fouled out with more than six minutes left in the game. Desi Sills also had 14 points and Markquis Nowell finished with 11.
“This is on me,” Kansas State coach Jerome Tang said. “I didn’t do a very good job of preparing these guys for how physical and with what force people play with in the Big 12 Tournament. And that will not happen again.”
The Wildcats got off to the the hot start, buoyed by a partisan crowd that had traveled down Interstate 70 to make its voice heard inside T-Mobile Center. But the Wildcats began to struggle with turnovers — 11 in the first half alone — and that allowed the Horned Frogs time enough to find their footing.
It was Miles who not only calmed them down but gave them a big offensive boost. The all-conference guard hit two early 3s and had 12 first-half points, helping TCU take a 37-32 lead into the locker room.
Johnson, the Wildcats’ leading scorer, took an inadvertent elbow to his right eye and went to the locker room in the closing seconds of the first half. The Florida transfer appeared to have sutures on his brow when he returned with the rest of the team for the start of the second, though they didn’t seem to bother him.
Good thing, too. Johnson’s 3-pointers were all that kept Kansas State in the game for a while.
Miles and O’Bannon simply wouldn’t miss, though. During one scorching stretch of five trips down the floor, Miles bookended a 3-pointer by O’Bannon with two 3s of his own, and after a miss by Micah Peavy, O’Bannon hit another 3 to give the Horned Frogs a 66-51 lead with just under 10 minutes left in the game.
The Horned Frogs were never threatened the rest of the way.
“Every guy gave us good minutes and that’s hard to do against a really good team,” Dixon said, “so I’m proud of them and how they played. We did what we wanted to do. We played really unselfish and good basketball.”
TCU had huge advantages in turnovers and second-chance points, and along with 11-of-25 shooting from the arc, the Wildcats simply couldn’t keep up. It was reminiscent of the Horned Frogs’ 82-68 win over Kansas State in January.
Kansas State can rarely overcome an off night from Nowell, its do-it-all guard. But he was just 1 of 9 on 3-pointers, missing several wild shots from well beyond the arc, and had an uncharacteristic five turnovers.
The Horned Frogs play the second-seeded Longhorns on Friday night for a spot in the title game.
The Wildcats head home to await their NCAA Tournament seed on Sunday.