Sports

TCU men try to knock off a Top 25 team for third time this year

As you'd expect, Hank Thorns is not satisfied. Neither are his fellow seniors, J.R. Cadot and Craig Williams, and Cheick Kone, who is a junior but in his last year of eligibility.

Despite helping turn around the TCU basketball program with its first winning record in seven years, Thorns and the others still have goals left to attain in the final weeks of their college careers.

For starters, they'd like to do something that a Horned Frog team has never done: beat three Top 25 teams in a season. With a victory tonight in the regular-season finale against No. 21 San Diego State the Frogs would accomplish the feat and likely clinch a postseason tournament berth.

"I don't feel like I've accomplished anything here, as a teammate, if we don't play in the postseason," said Thorns, who will be honored along with the others before tonight's game at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum. "We're going to lay it all out. We're going to play hard for the team because we have an opportunity to play in the postseason, and that's something I want to do here."

The Frogs (17-12, 7-6 in Mountain West) have proven they can take down ranked teams with upsets at home against then-No. 11 UNLV on Feb. 14 and then-No. 18 New Mexico on Feb. 25. Not only have the Frogs never beaten three Top 25 team in a season, but they've also never done it in consecutive opportunities. TCU is 6-0 at home, their best home season in a league since 1997-98. The Aztecs (23-6, 9-4) have won three consecutive games after a three-game losing streak. They beat TCU by 10 on Feb. 4 in San Diego but it wasn't even that close. San Diego State outrebounded TCU 35-21 and led by as much as 18 with under five minutes remaining.

The Frogs' senior leadership has helped navigate the team through hard-to-stomach losses at SMU, at Boise State and Tuesday at Wyoming. Thorns says it starts with the next practice.

"When things don't go our way we regroup, we refocus, we talk about it and it's over," he said. "We have stayed positive with each other through the good and the bad, that's what family does. That's been part of our success, we don't dwell on it."

The seniors have helped changed the culture, coach Jim Christian said. By not only performing well on the court, but being positive influences in the locker room.

"They're laying down the foundation for whatever happens in TCU basketball," said Christian, who has clinched his first winning season with the Frogs. "The best thing they've done is next year when we get in the same situations, these [underclassmen], since they've been led by these seniors, they can say, we've been here already. We're down 15? We can win this game. We have a ranked team coming up? We can beat them. These guys have led us to build that momentum that you need to believe in yourself."

Point guard Kyan Anderson, a freshman from North Crowley High School, saw Thorns take over the game against UNLV. Freshman Connell Crossland has learned by watching Cadot tenaciously track down loose balls and rebounds. This success, Christian believes, is only the beginning.

"This senior group has shown them the way," he said, before pivoting to the task at hand. "We're still trying to play for things this year. People have said, 'Good year.' Well, it's not over. We're playing for a lot of things, so we have to keep going. This time of year, if you win, you keep playing. And if you keep playing, all the questions get answered."

But the biggest question that lingered before the season and after some demoralizing losses the last few months has been answered.

"We helped the young guys and brought a winning attitude to TCU," Thorns said. "That's how I hope to be remembered."

Said Williams: "It's a good feeling knowing you were part of something special, turning the program around and pointing it in a positive direction."

And they're not done.

"We have another opportunity to make history and put our names in the books here and people will remember us forever now," Thorns said. "I think we have a good couple weeks left in us. I want to play four more weeks."

Stefan Stevenson

817-390-7760

Twitter: @FollowtheFrogs

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