Turning over the same leaf

It was senior night for TCU on Wednesday night in Fort Worth, as the Horned Frogs said goodbye to four players for the last time. But it was the whole Ute team that played like seniors in the 69-65 loss.

Senior citizens that is.

Dealing with the usual missed free throws and a glut of turnovers, the Utes (12-14, 5-10 MWC) could not match the big plays from TCU (6-23, 2-13) down the stretch, eventually allowing the Frogs to run out the clock with the Utes on the losing end.

TCU came into the game on a nine-game losing streak and looked primed to head to next week’s MWC tournament with one lone conference victory over their belt. But the Utes, losers of three in a row themselves entering Wednesday, allowed the Frogs to double their conference win total.

The Utes jumped out to a 15-9 lead early on a deep three-pointer by Johnnie Bryant, but that was as big a cushion the Utes would get all night. Turnovers kept the Utes from pulling away in the first half, even with the team shooting 62.5 percent from the field. At the half the U had a two-point lead at 34-32.

In the second half things stayed tight throughout. The Utes managed to jump out to a few four-point leads, but could not put the Frogs away.

“We allowed them to get some confidence,” Ute head coach Ray Giacoletti said. “Once a team gets some confidence, it becomes easier for them to get shots to go.”

Eventually TCU managed to overtake the Utes and went on an 8-2 run late to give themselves a comfortable lead. Down 66-60 with 1:19 to go, the Utes still managed to keep in the ball game.

Bryant nailed his fifth three-pointer of the night with 1:07 left, putting the onus on the Frogs to get another big shot. They didn’t, but it didn’t matter. TCU star Nile Murry missed on a jumper, but the rebound went out of bounds off Ute forward Shaun Green with 27 seconds to play.

Murry immediately redeemed himself, hitting one of two free throws, and the Utes could not pull to within one possession for the rest of the game. For the third time in four games, the Utes found themselves in position to win down the stretch, but as with the previous two they could not get the result they wanted.

“It’s like running a marathon,” Giacoletti said. “You have to finish those last two miles and shrug off the fatigue.”

In addition to the loss, the Utes got some bad news when junior forward Jonas Langvad broke his hand early in the second half. Langvad will miss the rest of the season, making the Utes’ already thin depth chart even tighter.

Utah returns home this Saturday for Senior Night when they will honor Casey Iverson, Tim Drisdom, Bryant Markson and Chris Jackson before the game with Wyoming. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.