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MWC Tournament:

BYU escapes TCU’s first round upset bid

Cougars out-rebound Horned Frogs, which proves to be the difference


Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

BYU guard Jimmer Fredette talks with head coach Dave Rose during their Mountain West Conference Championship game against TCU Thursday, March 10, 2011 at the Thomas & Mack Center. BYU won the game 64-58.

MWC Tournament - BYU vs. TCU

The BYU bench celebrates a successful three-point shot late in their Mountain West Conference Championship game against TCU Thursday, March 10, 2011 at the Thomas & Mack Center. BYU won the game 64-58. Launch slideshow »

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BYU has officially adopted its March mentality.

The Cougars weren’t concerned about their lackluster performance and flirtation with first-round disaster at the Mountain West Conference Tournament Thursday afternoon. It took more than expected to pull No. 1-seed BYU to a 64-58 victory over No. 9-seed TCU.

But after the game, the Cougars said they wouldn’t dwell on the performance. They wouldn’t even review it.

“We keep moving forward,” senior guard Jimmer Fredette said. “It’s one-and-done now. I’m just proud of my teammates, the way we battled even though we didn’t play well.”

TCU had a 34-33 lead at halftime and trailed only 60-58 with 25 seconds left after Greg Hill hit a three-pointer. The Horned Frogs — who went 1-15 in conference play this season but beat Wyoming in Wednesday’s play-in game — were forced to foul with the final seconds ticking off of the clock.

Fredette stepped to the line and made both free throws, as did Jackson Emery on BYU’s next possession to put the game out of reach. It was a satisfying conclusion to an otherwise frustrating afternoon for Fredette and Emery.

BYU’s two leading scorers went a combined 10-for-34 from the field.

“Tonight was about grinding it out,” BYU coach Dave Rose said, “and finding a way to win without hitting your comfortable shots that you normally hit.”

BYU surprisingly excelled on the boards in its third game without leading rebounder Brandon Davies, who was suspended for the rest of the season for violating the school’s honor code.

The Cougars out-rebounded the Horned Frogs 33-25, which led to a 17-2 edge in second-half points. Junior forward Charles Abouo was at the forefront of the effort with 14 points and eight rebounds.

“We knew coming in we had to control the tempo the best we could,” TCU coach Jim Christian said. “The game was in the 60s, so I think we did a pretty good job with that. If we’re going to beat BYU, that’s the kind of game it’s going to have to be.”

Las Vegas native and Valley High graduate Hank Thorns was responsible for keeping TCU in the game. He led the Horned Frogs with 15 points, six assists and five rebounds.

Despite his below-average game, Fredette answered Thorns’ biggest plays when it mattered. Thorns set up Garlon Green with an open 3-pointer to give TCU a 34-30 lead a minute before halftime. Fredette, who had 24 points on 7-for-21 shooting, marched down the floor and sank a three of his own.

Those are the types of things it takes to win in March, Rose said. He’s not bothered by it.

“These games are hard to win,” Rose said. “Take a look — it’s not just happening here in Vegas, but all over the country. The dark jerseys are winning a lot of games.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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