Thorns scores 32 as TCU stages stunner to beat No. 11 UNLV

Posted Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012  comments  Print Reprints
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Hours before TCU took to the court against No. 11 UNLV on Tuesday, Horned Frogs guard Hank Thorns tweeted to the world that he never experienced fans storming the court in college.

Hours later, the senior personally made sure it happened with a sizzling, singular performance at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum.

Thorns scored eight of his career-high 32 points in overtime as TCU came back from 18 down to upset the Rebels 102-97 in front of an announced crowd of 4,710. Even fewer fans were on hand, but the ones who showed the Frogs love on Valentine's Day were repaid with the most electrifying win in recent TCU history.

It was the first time the Frogs (15-10, 5-4 in Mountain West) have beaten an AP Top 25 team since beating No. 14 Air Force in 2007. It was the highest-ranked team the Frogs have beaten since beating No. 10 Louisville in 2004.

"It's hard to put it into perspective -- down 18 points to the No. 11 team in the country," TCU coach Jim Christian said. "I told our kids before the game I felt like we had an opportunity."

It was the first time UNLV (22-5, 6-3) has lost a game this season when leading at the half (the Rebels were 18-0 previously). And the Rebels were seemingly in control with an 18-point lead and 13:48 remaining.

But the Frogs sped up the tempo and outscored UNLV 35-17 in the final 13 minutes of regulation. Thorns drained two 3-pointers less than 30 seconds apart to tie it at 83-83 with 2:52 left in regulation. Thorns' game-tying 3 was from several feet behind the arc. After Mike Moser, who led the Rebels with 22 points, gave UNLV a two-point lead with a layup, Amric Fields tied it at 85-85 with a steal and driving shot down the lane with 2:05 left. Neither team scored in the final two minutes. Kyan Anderson and Thorns each came up with steals in the final minute to preserve the tie and force overtime.

Thorns' driving layup started the overtime scoring and he didn't let up. His most amazing shot of the night had to be his 3 with UNLV's Oscar Bellfield in his face to give TCU a five-point lead with 1:12 remaining. Thorns danced, dribbled, tried to find cutting room to the basket before spinning around and pulling up for the 3.

"I was hot; I can't explain it," said Thorns, who grew up in Las Vegas and knows Rebels players well. "I was feeling it. I tried to cool myself down, I blew on my hands. I stayed hot."

When the buzzer sounded and victory was secure, Thorns jumped on the press table, raised his arms and shouted ecstatically. TCU fans who had rushed the court were waiting for him when he jumped back down.

"It was a dream for me to do this, to beat these guys," said Thorns, who transferred to TCU from Virginia Tech three years ago. "That's something I always wanted to do, it was my reason to come here to TCU, and we got them when they were No. 11 in the country."

The win puts the Frogs in the hunt for the MWC title with home games against first-place No. 13 San Diego State and New Mexico remaining. The 15 wins are the most by TCU since 2005.

"It was the shots that he got to get him going that was the disappointing part," said UNLV coach Dave Rice, referring to Thorns' 16 first-half points. "He made some shots at the end of the game that nobody could guard. But the problem is giving him confidence to start the game. He's a great player, there's obviously extra motivation for him playing UNLV."

Win to remember

TCU's upset of No. 11 UNLV was a milestone victory for the Frogs for a number of reasons:

It was TCU's first victory against a ranked team since the Frogs beat No. 14 Air Force 71-66 on Feb. 24, 2007.

It was TCU's first victory against the Runnin' Rebels since Jan. 10, 2009, when the Frogs won 80-73 in coach Jim Christian's first Mountain West game.

The Frogs (5-4) are over .500 in conference play this late in the season for the first time since they stood at 6-5 in mid-February 2004, and they are 5-0 at home in conference for the first time since 2000-01.

Hank Thorns' eight 3-pointers made are the second-most in a single game in TCU history (Michael Strickland made nine against Arkansas in 1990).

Stefan Stevenson

817-390-7760

Twitter: @FollowtheFrogs

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