Head basketball coach Jim Christian said he just wants another win this season, and he’d play 20 more games this season even if he doesn’t like to lose.
The Frogs were up by as much as five points in the second half of Senior Night–TCU’s last home game of the season, but New Mexico extended the Frogs’ losing streak to 12 games in an 80-70 victory at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum Saturday evening.
Freshman forward Amric Fields paced TCU (10-20, 1-14 MWC) with 17 points on 8-of-11 shooting and sophomore forward Nikola Cerina matched Fields’ team-high with 17 points of his own on 7-of-11 shooting. The Lobos (18-11, 6-8 MWC) snapped their own four game losing streak behind a game-high 32 points on 11-of-14 shooting from Lobos’ senior guard Dairese Gary. It was Gary’s second straight game to score a career-high in points. Gary broke his previous career-high of 26 points, which came in an overtime loss to UNLV Wednesday.
“They’re playing hard, they’re doing what they can do, that’s hard to do now,” Christian said. “That’s hard to do when you lose this many games in a row, and still fight, still be in the game. We’re just not making plays at key times, and big possessions we give up a basket almost every time. And that’s what happens when you don’t believe it, yet.”
When asked if he was looking forward to the end of the season or if he would rather the season be extended, Christian said he didn’t like losing, but he wanted to keep coaching his team as far as he could this season.
“We’re getting there, we’re getting a little bit closer,” Christian said. “But again, to answer your question, no, I want to keep coaching. I wish we could get to play 20 more games (this season).”
The Frogs shot 41.4 percent in the first half and went only 1-10 from three-point range, but TCU kept the deficit in single digits, down 36-29 at the half.
With 18:06 to remaining in the game, Lobos’ junior forward A.J. Hardeman landed a monstrous dunk, but was called for the offensive foul.
Frogs’ senior Greg Hill nailed a 3-pointer off the penetration pass and assist from junior guard Hank Thorns, knotting the game up 36-36 with 17:41 remaining.
Hill sunk another fade away three point shot to put the Frogs up 39-36, but Hardeman dunked and got the foul with 16:28 remaining to tie the game, 39-39.
Fields tied the ball game up, 41-41, with a lay-in with 14:34 remaining, and then displayed his reach with a monstrous one-handed jam to put the Frogs up 43-41 with 14:13 to go.
Fields nailed another shot from beyond the arc to stretch the lead to 48-43, but the Lobos went on a 9-0 run with 11:05 to go and didn’t look back as UNM sophomore forward Chad Adams to put the Lobos back up, 51-50.
Fields answered with a lay-in of his own, but Gary once again responded with a wide open 3-pointer to put the Lobos up 58-52.
UNM junior forward Drew Gordon hit a jump shot to stretch the leave to 63-55 for the Lobos with a little over seven minutes remaining and the Lobos’ lead grew to 10 off junior guard Phillip McDonald’s jumper with 5:11 remaining.
UNM stretched the lead to as many as 15– a 20 point swing in nearly 10 minutes of play.
“I’ve watched a lot of tape, obviously this has been a tough conference season for (Christian) and his staff, but they have continued to work extremely hard,” Lobos’ head coach Steve Alford said.
“(TCU’s) numbers obviously are down, (they lose Sammy Yaeger), then lose Moss, those two you look at what they were doing at Christmas, and they were a very scary team.
For a staff to keep your guys playing extremely hard is a credit to them. And they have played really hard, and I thought they played hard today.”
Five Frogs scored in double figures, while Hardeman scored 14 for UNM and McDonald tallied 12 points for the Lobos behind Gary’s career and game-high total of 32 points.
Frogs’ junior guard Hank Thorns matched a career high with 12 assists and scored 11 points. It was his eighth game this season with 10 or more assists.
“If and when we turn this thing around, and there’s no doubt we are going to, those guys who bought in, they can feel a lot of ownership because in some way they helped,” Christian said. “Someone has got to set the table up, our seniors have not quit one day and they aren’t really playing for anything. They haven’t. They still practice hard, they still play hard. They’re still coachable.
Forward Nikola Garcesa, a native of Belgrade, Serbia and guard Greg Hill, a native of Gary, Ind., were honored before tip-off in their last home game as Frogs. Gacesa scored two points while Hill scored tallied eight points and dished out two assists.
“My mom and my auntie came down from Indiana, my mom took a day off work,” Hill said. “This was a big deal for me. We’ve been talking all week. She finally got here, I was going to play my best no matter what.”
Hill said he still want to play basketball after graduating in June with a major in communications and a minor in criminal justice.
“I have a feeling I want to be done, but my heart tells me to keep on going,” Hill said. “So I’m going to follow my heart…I’m going to try international for at least three, four years.”
The Frogs will play their last game of the season at Air Force Wednesday at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast on The Mtn. and can be listened to on KCLE-AM 1460.
The Frogs finished with an 8-8 mark at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum this season.
TCU scored a season-high 36 points from its bench. Its previous high was 35 scored in the season-opening win over Jackson State.
Thorns matched a career high with 12 assist– -it marked his eighth outing this season with double figures in helpers. The total leads the MWC and ranks second nationally.
Thorns moved Frogs’ junior guard Ronnie Moss’ 2009-10 total of 189 assists into fourth place on the Frogs single-season helpers chart. Thorns (199 assists) is one assist shy of Prince Fowler for the third spot.