first_imgFORT WORTH — With two games left in the regular season, the Utah basketball team can finish anywhere from fifth to eighth place in the Mountain West Conference standings.With a win tonight over last-place TCU, the Utes can take a step toward the former and a big step toward avoiding the latter. The Utes and Horned Frogs meet at 8 p.m. MST at the 7,201-seat Daniel-Meyer Coliseum in a game televised on ESPN2.The Utes (12-13, 5-9), who have lost three straight games, take on a Horned Frogs team that has already been consigned to ninth place in the MWC with a 1-13 record. A TCU win raises the possibility that Utah will be its opponent in next week’s play-in game Tuesday night in Denver.Even though his team beat the Horned Frogs by 35 points when the two teams met in Salt Lake in January and the Frogs are just 5-23 on the season, Utah coach Ray Giacoletti is nervous about the game. He points out that the Horned Frogs are having senior night and will be out to avenge the 80-45 loss at the Huntsman Center.”They’re still playing hard in every game,” said Giacoletti. “They’ve played everyone close at home. I still think they’re a dangerous team.”The Horned Frogs have one of the better players in the league in Nile Murry, a 6-4 guard who averages 16.4 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. The only other starter in double figures is senior forward Judson Stubbs, who averages 10.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game.The other expected starters are forward Art Pierce (2.6 ppg), guard Neiman Owens (4.4 ppg) and Neil P. Dougherty (1.7 ppg), son of fourth-year coach Neil Dougherty, who made his first start against BYU last week.”This team doesn’t play like it’s packed it in,” said coach Dougherty. “We have played harder but we still need to do better.”Utah hopes to use its height advantage with 7-foot-1 freshman Luke Nevill against a TCU lineup that doesn’t use a center. Nevill has been the Utes’ most consistent player lately, averaging 15.4 points and 7.8 rebounds over the last five games. He’ll be joined in the starting lineup by Bryant Markson, Shaun Green, Johnnie Bryant and Chris Grant.In order to win, the Utes will have to avoid turnovers, which have cost them in several losses this year.”Our Achilles heel has been taking care of the ball,” Giacoletti said. “They can get out and pressure you, so we need to be ready for that.”A win almost assures the Utes of avoiding the Tuesday night game in Denver. Colorado State would need to win at BYU tonight and against Air Force Saturday and have Utah lose to Wyoming Saturday to edge the Utes out of the No. 7 spot.If Utah wins tonight and Saturday and New Mexico loses to UNLV tonight and to BYU Saturday, then the Utes would tie the Lobos at 7-9 and get the No. 5 spot in the tiebreaker. The Utes return home Thursday to get ready for the home finale against Wyoming Saturday night when the four Ute seniors will be honored. E-mail: [email protected] Utes on the air Utah (12-13, 5-9) at TCU (5-23, 1-13)Tonight, 8 p.m., Daniel-Meyer ColiseumTV: ESPN2 Radio: 700 AM last_img

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