Mar 072012
 
Authors: Kyle Grabowski

Only two points separated CSU and TCU during their split regular season series.

CSU prevailed in the team’s first match up 91-86 in double overtime to open its conference play, while the Frogs exacted their revenge 75-71 in Fort Worth.

Now, they have one more chance to prove who deserves an NCAA tournament shot in the first round of the Mountain West Basketball Championships Thursday in Las Vegas.

“It doesn’t matter where you are,” CSU forward Pierce Hornung said. “Whoever wants the game more goes and takes it.”

The Rams have taken wins in their last two games and four out of their last five, including victories over nationally ranked New Mexico and UNLV during that span. TCU, conversely, has dropped two straight games entering the tournament.

“The one thing about the tournament is everyone has this clean slate,” CSU coach Tim Miles. “We’ve been in that four-five (seed) game three years in a row and it’s always a bloodbath.”

TCU’s 3-point shooting kept the Horned Frogs in the game both of the earlier meetings. They hit 12 threes in each of the two games, compared to 12 total triples for CSU.

“Our three point defense has to be excellent,” Miles said.

One of the focuses of CSU’s overall defensive game plan will be first-team all conference guard Mike Thorns.

“Everything that they do runs through him. I have great respect for him,” CSU guard Wes Eikmeier said. “He’s been the reason why they’ve been good.”

Thorns averages 13.4 points and 4.6 assists per game this season, both in the Mountain West’s top 10, while leading the conference in minutes played.

“You get a guard like that who’s a dual threat and you’ve always got a problem on your hands,” Miles said.

Led by Thorns, the TCU offense scored the second most total points in the Mountain West this season, behind only No. 20 UNLV.

CSU’s defense, on the other hand, ranked second to last in the conference, allowing 68.3 points per game. TCU finished behind the Rams, however, with opponents scoring more than 70 points-per-game against the Horned Frogs.

“The old saying rings true, ‘defense wins championships,’” Hornung said. “It’s something we need to improve on and keep improving on.”

Though the Rams are seeded higher in the tournament, by no means does that guarantee they will advance.

“I don’t think anybody can pencil in a win, it’s wide open,” Miles said.

The door is wide open enough to the point that CSU wants to bust right through it and keep on going to the NCAA tournament.

“We’re going down there trying to win the tournament,” Miles said. “If we win three in a row they can’t keep us out.”

Men’s Basketball Beat Reporter Kyle Grabowski can be reached at sports@collegian.com.

TCU player to watch:
Senior guard Hank Thorns
2012 First Team All Mountain West
13.4 ppg (7th MW)
4.6 assists per game (3rd MW)
39.8 percent 3-pointy shooting (3rd MW)

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