TCU wins NIT Championship, beating Georgia Tech 88-56

TCU wins the NIT Championship, knocking off Georgia Tech, 88-56.

They say that New York City is where dreams are made. That was exactly what went down at Madison Square Garden in the Big Apple on Thursday night, as TCU defeated Georgia Tech 88-56 to secure its first NIT Championship in program history, capping off a Cinderella season for first-year head coach Jamie Dixon.

The Horned Frogs were dominant from start to end on the biggest stage of the tournament, never trailing once in the 32-point victory over the Yellow Jackets. TCU shot out to a 14-1 lead in the opening minutes, and that set the tone for one of the most memorable evenings in history for the Frogs on the hardwood, capped off by a Josh Parrish dunk at the buzzer as players mobbed each other at mid-court.

“This is a great, great accomplishment,” Dixon said. “It's hard to win five games. Hard to go on the road and win in the end of the year like this, and we did it.”

The Frogs were carried by yet another spectacular performance from junior Kenrich Williams, who recorded the second triple-double in TCU history with 25 points and 12 rebounds on the night. Williams was not alone in strong outings, as junior Vladmir Brodziansky tallied 18 points, punctuated by a monster slam dunk in the second half that helped the Frogs put the game out of reach.

“This is huge for us,” Williams said. “This is huge for our program and our school. I think people are starting to realize that our basketball team is on the map, certainly by winning this tournament. And even next year, I think we'll be even better.”

TCU wasted no time in showing they had come to play at the garden, shooting out of the gate on a 10-0 run, with all points coming in the paint. The Frogs didn’t execute a single three-point shot in the half before dropping five from beyond the arc in the final 20 minutes.

“I thought early on our defense, it was where it needed to be,” Dixon said. “It was getting better. And then we hit a lull where we weren't getting it done defensively.”

After leading by as much as 15 points near the mid-way mark of the first half, Georgia Tech rallied back to make it a six-point game at 21-15, propelled by a performance from Tadric Jackson in which he was responsible for a team-high 19 points. The Frogs however quickly regrouped, taking an 11-point 38-27 lead into the locker room at halftime.

The lead would still be at just 11 points nearly eight minutes into the second half when the Frogs led 60-49, but TCU wouldn’t stay content with a minimal lead intact. The Frogs erupted for a 19-0 run, carried by three shots from beyond the arc to build a commanding 30-point lead over the Yellow Jackets with just 2:24 to play.

With the win all but secured, Dixon quickly subbed in his seniors at an ensuing timeout. 144 seconds later, the Frogs were celebrating as NIT Champions on the floor of the World’s Most Famous Arena – the ultimate culmination of an improbable season in which the experts initially gave the Frogs no chance at relevancy.

The Frogs finished the night making 51 percent of their shots from the field, out-rebounding the Yellow Jackets 44-30 in the process. Discipline and awareness were the critical factors for TCU though, owning a 28-4 edge in points off turnovers. The Frogs recorded 13 steals while only allowing four.

“Our defense led to our offense,” Dixon said. “That's what we want to be. And we got turnovers; we got stops; we got transition the other way. And we've been pretty good in transition, and we're betting better at it, but the defense starts, no question.”

Emotion was clear amongst the four seniors – Brandon Parrish, Karviar Shepherd, Chris Washburn and Mike Williams, each who had encountered their fair share of adversity with the team during its first few tumultuous seasons in the Big 12 Conference.

“Went through the trenches, and seeing a lot of success early,” Parrish said. “For me to stay the course and to continue to believe in this program and in the coaching staff and in my teammates and myself, man, it's so big for me to have this moment right now.”

Dixon said was inspired by the commitment the seniors demonstrated amidst all the changes, from venues to coaching staffs.

“They have committed to it and they have sacrificed, and you know, you need your seniors and when you come to a program, it's hard,” Dixon said. “And they have been -- they have had a different coach, obviously challenges, and they had to buy in for us to be successful.”

For Dixon, it was only fitting that the former Pitt coach and TCU alum finished the job right at the venue that where he had experienced so much success during his Big East days with the Panthers. Dixon improved to 28-15 all-time at Madison Square Garden with the win.

With an NIT title now under his belt in his first year with the Frogs, Dixon hopes the championship only leads to greater strides for TCU in the future.

“This school has always given me a chance and given me an opportunity," Dixon said. "I won't stop until we win a Big 12 Championship and that's going to be the mentality going forward. But this is a good step in the right direction.”

Whether that moment comes next year or in several years, the Frogs, for now, get to exit the 2016-2017 season as champions, doing what so many said couldn’t be done.

More coming.

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