DENVER (AP)—Jason Smith broke out of his shooting slump just in time to lead Colorado State past TCU 64-60 in the Mountain West Conference tournament opener on Tuesday night.
Smith scored all 11 of his points in the final 10 minutes, including two crucial free throws with 25 seconds left that gave CSU a 63-60 lead.
TCU’s Brent Hackett misfired a 3-pointer, and Cory Lewis iced it with a free throw with 11 seconds left.
Freddy Robinson’s 16 points led the Rams (16-14), who will face league champion San Diego State (21-8) in the quarterfinals Thursday at the Pepsi Center.
The Horned Frogs, who got a season-best 28 points from Nile Murry, finished 6-25.
Smith, the Rams’ leading scorer with a 16.5-point average, didn’t score until 9:56 was left when his short jumper gave CSU a 49-45 lead.
From then on, it was Smith vs. Murry.
Murry’s driving layup and 3-pointer tied it at 55 with 4:47 remaining, but Smith replied with a 17-foot swish shot to give the Rams a 57-55 lead. Smith missed two free throws, and Murry sank both of his foul shots at the other end to tie it at 57 with 3 1/2 minutes remaining.
Smith, who was 4-of-10 from the floor and 3-of-7 from the line, missed a baseline drive to the basket but muscled his way for the board and his putback gave the Rams a 60-58 lead at the 2-minute mark.
Murry responded with a nifty reverse layup in traffic to tie it once again.
After a Rams’ turnover, Judson Stubbs, who scored 12 points, misfired a short shot and compounded it by fouling out when he hammered CSU’s Michael Harrison while trying to grab the rebound. Harrison missed his first shot but sank his second to give the Rams a 61-60 lead with 1:08 left.
Murry’s runner from the right side banged off the rim with 38 seconds left, and Smith grabbed his eighth rebound. After a timeout, Smith drew the foul on the inbounds and sank both his free throws for a 63-60 lead.