Junior guard Hank Thorns set a career best with 18 points and dished out a game-high eight assists Sunday, but TCU was unable to hold a double-digit first-half lead during a 70-61 road setback to Rice at the Owls’ Autry Court.
The loss dropped TCU’s season record to 9-6 overall and 1-3 in true road contests. Rice improved to 8-6 overall.
Playing in its final non-conference game of the season Sunday, TCU found itself short-handed while playing without its leading scorer, junior guard Ronnie Moss, who suffered an injury during Thursday’s loss at Tulsa. Despite Moss’ absence, the Horned Frogs still managed to jump out to an early 10-point lead in the game’s opening six minutes.
Rice rallied to tie the contest at the half, then scored the first 11 points to start the second period. TCU cut the lead to as few as four points on three different occasions, but each time was turned back by the Owls.
Thorns led the way for TCU by making 7-of-11 shots in 36 minutes of action. Senior guard Greg Hill posted his second-straight double-figure performance with 12 points, while he added a season-high five rebounds. Sophomore forward Garlon Green hit a trio of 3-pointers on his way to scoring 11 points, while junior guard J.R. Cadot led TCU on the glass with six rebounds.
TCU shot 48.9 percent from the field, including 54.5 percent in the first half, and held the Owls to only 42.9 percent shooting. Despite being outshot, the Owls were able to force 16 Frog turnovers that resulted in 20 points while going 26-of-30 at the free-throw line. TCU managed only an 8-of-15 showing at the stripe.
Four players scored in double figures to lead Rice, including forward Arsalan Kazemi, who totaled 20 points and eight rebounds. Kazemi went 10-of-11 at the charity stripe. Center Trey Stanton added 11 points and nine rebounds, while guards Connor Frizzelle and Tamir Jackson scored 14 and 12 points, respectively.
After seeing the game tied at the half, 30-30, TCU quickly found itself in a deep hole to start the second period. The Owls rattled off an 11-0 run to jump on top, 41-30. The Frogs were held scoreless for the first four-plus minutes of the second half.
TCU was able to climb within four points of Rice three different times, the last of which came on a Hill layup with 2:02 remaining. The Frogs were unable to get the stop they needed on the Owls’ ensuring possession, as Jackson grabbed an offensive rebound and made it to the free-throw line, where he sank both shots. Rice made each of its 10 attempts from the stripe in the final 1:26 to ice its victory.
TCU jumped out to an early double-digit lead in the opening six minutes of the first half. The Frogs hit seven of their first 10 shots from the field in the period, including 3-of-5 attempts from 3-point range. Junior guard Sammy Yeager had seven points in the first eight minutes, while Green and Thorns added five each.
Rice eventually regrouped with a 12-2 run to tie the game at 21-21 by the 6:14 mark. The Owls attacked the paint during the stretch, scoring eight of their points on layups inside. Green and Hill both hit treys to put the Frogs back on top in the final minutes of the first half, but a 3-pointer by Frizzelle in the closing seconds knotted the score at 30-30 at intermission.
TCU returns home to begin its 2011 Mountain West Conference schedule Wednesday, Jan. 5 against No. 7 San Diego State. Tip-off between the Frogs and Aztecs is set for 6:30 p.m. The game will be televised nationally by The MountainWest Sports Network (The Mtn.) on DirecTV channel 616.