Utah guard Will Clyburn unlocked a tie game on a free throw in the closing seconds, and TCU’s final scoring chance was turned away late during a 50-48 Ute victory Tuesday at the Huntsman Center.
The setback dropped TCU’s season record to 10-19 overall and 1-13 in Mountain West Conference play. Utah improved to 13-15 overall and 6-8 in the MWC with its third consecutive victory.
The Frogs found themselves in one of their tightest defensive battles of the season, as the contest featured eight ties and 11 lead changes. Neither team was able to grab more than a two-point advantage over the game’s final 14 minutes.
After TCU sophomore forward Nikola Cerina tied the game at 48-48 with 43.5 seconds remaining on a layup following a Frog timeout, Clyburn was fouled driving to the basket with 9.5 seconds left. He made 1-of-2 attempts to put the Utes on top, then 7-4 center David Foster swatted away a layup attempt by TCU junior guard Hank Thorns with only three seconds left.
Guard Chris Hines added another 1-for-2 effort from the line after being fouled following Foster’s block, and Frog junior guard J.R. Cadot’s last gasp heave from downcourt sailed off-line at the buzzer.
Thorns led TCU in scoring with 14 points on 5-of-15 shooting, while he also totaled a game-high seven assists. Cadot added 12 points, his fourth consecutive game scoring 12 or more, and recorded six rebounds and a pair of blocked shots. Cerina set a career high with 11 boards while chipping in eight points.
Guard Josh Watkins led Utah with 14 points. Forward J.J. O’Brien was the only other Ute in double figures with 13 points. Foster helped make up for a scoreless night by recording three blocks on the defensive end.
Neither team was able to find any traction on the offensive end of the court Tuesday, as both shot below the 33 percent mark for the contest. The squads combined to make only 3-of-21 attempts from beyond the arc.
TCU was able to regroup from a poor rebounding effort in Saturday’s loss to BYU, recording a 38-36 advantage on the glass.
TCU experienced a very slow start to the contest, falling behind by as many as eight points in the first half before regrouping to take a one-point lead at intermission, 20-19. The Frogs made only one field goal in the opening 5:13 and went 2-of-12 overall in the first nine minutes.
As much as the Frogs struggled from the field in the half, Utah was just as cold. The Utes made only 8-of-28 first-half field-goal attempts (28.6 percent) and missed 11 of their final 12 shots in the period.
TCU outscored Utah 12-5 over the final 8:27 of the period. Cadot totaled two layups and a dunk, while Thorns gave the Frogs their first lead on a 3-pointer with 56 seconds remaining. The shot gave TCU its first halftime lead in 11 games dating back to the Jan. 12 win over Utah, despite the fact that the 20 points marked a season low for the squad in any half this season.
TCU concludes its home schedule Saturday, when it plays host to New Mexico on Senior Day at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum. Seniors Nikola Gacesa and Greg Hill will be honored during their final Frog home games. The contest, which is set to tip off at 7 p.m. CT, will be televised live by The MountainWest Sports Network (The Mtn.).
– Utah’s 50 points marked the low total for a TCU opponent this season, breaking the previous low of 60 set by both Wyoming (Jan. 12) and San Diego State (Feb. 5).
– Utah’s 19 first-half points also marked the fewest by a TCU opponent in a half this season.
– Nikola Cerina set a career high with 11 rebounds, his first game ever with double figures on the glass. His previous high was nine boards, which he recorded twice previously.
– Hank Thorns moved into fifth place on TCU’s single-season assist chart and finished the evening with 187 on the campaign. He passed by former Frogs Corey Santee (180; 2001-02), Tony Edmond (180; 1988-89) and Mike Jones (181; 1997-98) Tuesday.