TCU men’s basketball came out of the gates leading 9-0 against formerly ranked UNLV, but the Runnin’ Rebels handed the Frogs their seventh consecutive loss, 94-79, Wednesday evening at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum.
UNLV shot 61.1 percent for the game, the highest shooting percentage the Frogs have given up all season, and went 10-for-16 from beyond the arc. While TCU shot 52 percent and made eight 3-pointers of their own, head basketball coach Jim Christian cited lack of toughness on the defensive end as the reason for the defeat.
“We were tougher than San Diego State, and tonight, I thought (the Rebels) were the tougher team,” Christian said. “…We came out in the first four minutes, and I thought we played very hard and very smart. But then, we just let them get too many easy baskets.”
TCU (10-16, 1-9) played even through the first 10 minutes with UNLV (18-6, 6-4 MWC)in front of a crowd of 3,813, but the Frogs defense lost steam in the latter part of the first half as UNLV hung 47 first half points on 66.7 percent shooting. Senior guard Greg Hill and sophomore forward Garlon Green led TCU in scoring in the first half with 8 points each.
UNLV opened up a 19 point lead with 15 minutes remaining in the game. Twice the Frogs cut the Runnin’ Rebel lead down to 12, and with 7:41 remaining in the contest, the Frogs trailed 72-63 after junior guard Hank Thorns sunk two free throws.
TCU then forced a turnover and Thorns found senior forward Nikola Gacesa under the basket for a bucket and the foul. Gacesa made the free throw to cut the lead to six.
Defensive lapses continued as UNLV answered each TCU basket with one of their own. An 8-2 run for UNLV after the lead had been cut to 77-71 sealed the 15-point win for UNLV.
Thorns played perhaps his best game of the season finishing with a career-high 21 points and nine assists.
“We have to come to practice tomorrow and get better,” Thorns said. “Defense comes down to toughness and the will to want to stop somebody. That is defense. Normally when TCU scores 70 points…they win. When I saw we had 70, I thought we shouldn’t be losing. But it’s our defense.”
Leading scorer Ronnie Moss continues to sit out after being indefinitely suspended by Jim Christian in late January. Other players in double figures were Gacesa (13), Hill (15), and Green (12).
Christian emphasized that he remains encouraged by his team’s effort, and he is happy with the way they have bonded since Moss’ suspension and Sammy Yeager’s dismissal in January.
“They play harder, and I think they are more together than they have ever been,” Christian said. “They are enjoying each other more, and they are more enjoyable to coach.”
The Frogs will play their next game in Laramie, Wyo. Saturday at 2:30 p.m. The game will be televised on The Mtn. and broadcast on 88.7 FM (KTCU). The Cowboys present TCU with an opportunity to snap their seven game losing streak and pick up another conference win8212;TCU’s only conference win came against the Cowboys Jan. 11 in Fort Worth.
Wednesday’s game marked the first time this season TCU lost a game when scoring at least 70 points. The Frogs are now 10-1 when scoring more than 70 points.
TCU was also 7-0 on the season when shooting better than 50 percent field before Wednesday’s loss.
Hank Thorns scored a career-high 21 points and Garlon Green recorded his first career double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.