At a critical time, Trent Johnson and Trey Zeigler had one of those coach-player moments.
The player had nearly made a mistake. The coach was ready to chew him out.
But Johnson couldn’t quite do it. He put his hands around Zeigler’s head, said, “Be smarter,” and left it at that.
They both walked away with a smile, knowing how close they were to a long-awaited second Big 12 victory, Saturday’s 70-55 triumph against No.
21 Oklahoma State.
“It was a good moment,” Zeigler said.
One of many good moments down the stretch for the Horned Frogs, who scored 22 of the game’s final 29 points and shot 52 percent to upset the Cowboys, who were coming coming off victories against Texas, Kansas and Baylor.
There were so many good moments — and good numbers, such as an 18-for-23 performance at the foul line — for TCU.
But Johnson and Zeigler’s meeting on the court said everything about the season for the Horned Frogs (15-10, 2-10), who had come close but failed to seal the deal in five other chances for Big 12 wins.
They should have been tense and tight. Instead, they could feel their best stretch of basketball in weeks happening.
“I had turned the ball over,” Zeigler said. “Luckily we got it right back. I could see him jumping up and down. I was telling him to calm down. He grabbed my head. It was a good moment. Just the momentum we had going, it was a lot of fun out there.”
Johnson, told it almost looked as if they were ready to embrace, shook his head in his usual stoic style.
“We weren’t embracing,” he said. “He had almost committed a turnover, and I was screaming at him to come over. I put my hand around his head, said, ‘Come on now, you’ve got to be smarter than this.'”
But an embrace?
“I don’t embrace anybody,” Johnson said. “It’s Valentine’s Day, and I don’t even embrace my wife.”
Johnson got his laugh from the reporters, and he got smiles from his players.
“It was nice to see,” he said. “It’s nice to see the locker room smiling. I like to see guys happy.”
Any team is happy after shooting 52 percent and playing perhaps its best stretch of basketball of the season. The Horned Frogs rallied from a 37-32 deficit early in the second half, tying and going ahead 38-37 on Zeigler’s free throws with 15:23 left and never trailing after that.
Although Oklahoma State (17-8, 7-6) tied it three times, at 44-44, 46-46 and 48-48, the Horned Frogs stayed ahead by making free throws. Amric Fields, a 39.6 percent shooter coming in, twice made both shots down the stretch. Kenrich Williams and Kyan Anderson each did the same.
It was the best showing of the season at the line for the Horned Frogs, although they were 0 for 9 on 3-pointers.
“Give TCU credit,” Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said. “They deserved the win. They played well. They played gutsy, made shots, made all the big shots, withstood a mini-run we made at them. So give them all the credit.”
Johnson said the same thing.
“We made some shots. We got some key stops,” he said. “The kids were confident versus a good team, a really, really good team. So we continue to grind. They’re off tomorrow. We’ll be back at it Monday. But Coach has to catch an early flight, go recruiting.”
But first, maybe a small celebration.
“I might hug my wife on Valentine’s Day,” Johnson said. “How about that? There haven’t been a lot of those going around the last two months, I can tell you that.”
Might as well embrace it.
This article was written by Carlos Mendez from Fort Worth Star-Telegram and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.