LAS VEGAS (AP) – Pierce Hornung had 16 points and 14 rebounds to lead six players in double figures for No. 4 seed Colorado State, which routed No. 5 seed TCU 81-60 in the opening round of the Mountain West Conference tournament on Thursday.
The Rams (20-10), who kept alive their bid for their first NCAA tournament berth since 2003, will face top-seeded and No. 18 San Diego State in the semifinals Friday night. SDSU beat Boise State 65-62.
Coach Tim Miles said the focus isn’t on the NCAAs.
“Well, we came to win the conference tournament. We thought that we could do what we could do till the end of the regular season to have a high-finishing conference record and put ourselves in this conversation. But, you know, about the time you say, `Oh, we might need one to be in, Boise upsets San Diego State, so now you can’t lose to Boise.’ It never ends.
“Try to win the conference tournament and see if they can keep us out that way. They can’t.”
CSU had home victories against Top 25 teams and conference rivals San Diego State, New Mexico and UNLV. The Rams helped knock New Mexico out of the rankings.
Wes Eikmeier, who had two 3-pointers in scoring the game’s first eight points, finished with 15 points. Will Bell scored 14, Dwight Smith 13, Dorian Green 11 and Jesse Carr 10 for the Rams.
“I thought our guys played great,” Miles said. “We play seven guys in the rotation and six were in double figures. Our pace was really good early on offense in terms of ball movement, player movement. I thought our defensive effort was better. We got to their 3-point shooters, which they made 24 3s in two games. They were 2 for 20 tonight, so I think that was obviously a key.”
The Rams were without junior forward Greg Smith, their second-leading rebounder and third-leading scorer who sprained his right ankle during practice Wednesday.
CSU jumped to a 9-0 lead and had the margin up to double digits before the midway point of the first half.
Hank Thorns, who is from Las Vegas, scored 19 for TCU (17-14) and J.R. Cadot had 10.
Besides Eikmeier’s opening barrage, the Rams outscored TCU 50-38 in the paint.
“It was definitely a game plan to attack them, keep attacking them, win down there in the paint,” Hornung said.
“You know, as I just told the team, when you play in a conference tournament, you’ve got to raise your level,” TCU coach Jim Christian said. “You’ve got to raise your level on the defensive end of the floor. The key to our game plan was to keep them out of the lane. I just thought we did a really poor job right from the outset of containing dribble-penetration. It just led to too many easy baskets.
“They got in a good rhythm. When you let them get in a good rhythm, they hurt you. They hurt us right from the beginning today. We dug too deep of a hole. Then we tried to come back. We kind of lost our offensive discipline. We tried to get it back too soon. That’s what happens when you dig holes.”
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