It’s south to the Lone Star State tonight for the men’s basketball team, as it takes on the Texas Chirstian Horned Frogs in its 11th conference game of the year.
The Rams (6-18, 0-10 MWC) are still looking to crack the seal on the conference with a win. It’s been 11 straight games since the team last tasted victory, accenting 15 losses in the last 16 tries and 17 straight losses on the road.
TCU (12-12, 4-7 MWC) certainly isn’t a Mountain West powerhouse, boasting the third-worst record in the conference, but they did hand the Rams a healthy 70-58 loss last time around (Jan. 19) in Fort Collins.
What they do bring is a tenacious defense that averages 9.71 steals per game, the most in the conference by far and the 10th most in the nation. The turnovers have translated into a +2.75 average turnover margin for the Frogs.
They also pick up more offensive rebounds than any team in the league (12.96 per game), leading to critical second-chance buckets.
CSU coach Tim Miles said the Rams will desperately need to limit their mistakes if they hope to have success this time around.
“TCU is a team that lives off their opponent’s mistakes,” Miles said. “It’s critical that we handle the ball well.”
Ball control will continue to be a little tougher for the Rams this week, as junior point guard Willis Gardner will likely be out again with a dislocated shoulder. X-rays of the shoulder were taken last Thursday, but official results have yet to be released. Speculation around the team puts Gardner’s chances of a return before the conference tournament at unlikely.
Sophomore Ronnie Aguilar is also doubtful for tonight’s game with a possible stress fracture in his left foot. The injury, which had been worsening over the course of the last few weeks, kept the 7-foot Aguilar out of action in last week’s game against Brigham Young.
No surprise, the Rams will turn to senior center Stuart Creason and junior guard Marcus Walker to carry the bulk of the offensive load. The two can provide a deadly combination of solid inside play and deadly long-range shooting when they’re on, but have yet to play well at the same time since Creason’s return from a stress fractured foot two weeks ago.
Still, Walker is averaging an even 18 points per game (20.0 PPG in conference) for the Rams, the most in the Mountain West.
Creason, a native of Coppell, Texas, has put up 13.1 points per game this season (18.5 in conference).
Creason also adds 6.3 rebounds per game and has 21 blocks on the season, second only to Aguilar’s 26.
TCU is led by forward Kevin Langford with 14.1 points per game and guard Henry Salter with 13.9 points per game.
In spite of the offensive production, freshman guard (and Houston, Texas native) Josh Simmons said that the game will come down to high intensity, scrappy defense on both sides.
“They’re going to try to make us turn the ball over with traps, one-three-one, full court (press),” Simmons said. “It’s a high intense game. They just want to make us turn the ball over but we’ve just got to take care of it.”
Game time is set for 5:30 p.m. Mountain Time in the Daniel-Meyer Coliseum, Fort Worth, Texas.
Sports writer Nick Hubel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.