Sluggish opening dooms TCU

Given his team’s tough loss to San Diego State on Saturday, UNLV coach Dave Rice had to be concerned about his team having an emotional hangover heading into its Mountain West Conference home opener Wednesday.

Turns out Texas Christian coach Jim Christian was the one with the real concerns. The Rebels came out firing and delivered an early knockout punch to TCU, leading 31-10 in the opening 7:13 en route to a 101-78 win at the Thomas & Mack Center.

UNLV made 11 of its first 13 shots, including 6 of 7 from beyond the 3-point line, and despite some extended stretches of sloppiness, the Rebels were never in trouble and evened their league record at 1-1 (17-3 overall).

“We practiced harder Monday than we played the first 10 minutes (Wednesday),” Christian said. “They shoot the ball well at home. We knew that. But we need everyone to guard for us to have a chance in a game like this.”

Rice said his team’s 57 percent shooting from the floor and 51 percent shooting on 3-pointers can be attributed to the way the Rebels practiced following the San Diego State loss.

“We put a lot into the San Diego State game, and we let a good opportunity slip away,” Rice said. “But we told our guys on Monday, ‘Let’s not dwell on it. Let’s get better and move on,’ and I thought our seniors did a great job in leading the way in practice this week.”

TCU (10-7, 0-2) got buried early by an avalanche of outside shots. Mike Moser and Chace Stanback came out firing, and the Horned Frogs had no answer defensively.

Anthony Marshall shredded TCU inside with a career-high 27 points. Moser recorded his ninth double-double of the season, finishing with 16 points and 15 rebounds. Stanback made 5 of 7 3-pointers and had 21 points.

“It was really important to start quickly,” Moser said. “It was wearing on us all weekend, and it was good to unleash that frustration.”

Compounding TCU’s problems was that former Valley High School star Hank Thorns struggled, got into early foul trouble and was never a factor. The senior guard, who leads TCU at 13.1 points per game, had 11 points on 3-for-14 shooting. And with Thorns having an off-night, TCU didn’t have the firepower to keep pace with UNLV offensively.

The Horned Frogs trailed by 27 midway through the second half, and from Rice’s perspective, it was time to put the win in the rear-view mirror and get ready for a New Mexico team Saturday that figures to be on edge after losing at home to San Diego State on Wednesday.

“It’s equally important to put (Wednesday) behind us,” Rice said. “We’re going to be facing a very tough game against a team that is going to be desperate. We’re going to have to be the more desperate team Saturday.”

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or at 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter @stevecarprj.

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