Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports.
By David Cordova
Although the National Invitational Tournament isn’t every college player’s ideal setting to finish out their season, it is a great thing for two reasons: the opportunity to finish the season on the hallowed court of the World’s Most Famous Arena, Madison Square Garden, and a chance to end the season as champions.
From the start of the season, the TCU Horned Frogs had one mission on their mind: to win a championship, which would be the first national title in school history. TCU had a rough season in Big 1 2 conference play, with a 6-12 record, but still managed to pull off two big upsets this season, the first was on January 14th, with an 84-77 win against the No. 16 team in the AP poll and the second was during the Big 12 Tournament on March 9th, with an 85-82 upset win over Kansas, the No. 1 team in the conference and the No. 3 team in the country.
Unfortunately, they would lose to Iowa State in the Big 12 semifinals on March 10th, and would then receive an invitation to the NIT, in which they would steamroll through the competition by beating Fresno State, Iowa and Richmond before making it to the Garden and dismantling UCF, 68-53, in the NIT semifinals.
In the finals, they would meet up against a good Georgia Tech team that also had an easy road to the NIT by beating Cal State-Bakersfield in the semifinals. Now the question remained: Which team would leave New York as the champion? One team easily answered that question.
TCU 88, Georgia Tech 56
The Horned Frogs came out strong with junior Vladimir Brodizansky scoring the first six points of the game and then freshman Desmond Bane added a layup to give them an 8-0 lead, with 17:12 remaining in the first half.
The key to Georgia Tech’s woes early on was the fact that they could not get shots off and TCU successfully boxed out on the boards and kept the Yellow Jackets to 20% shooting for the first few minutes of the game. Such was evident when the Horned Frogs ended up leading by fifteen, 21-5, with, 12:10 to go.
But then moments later, Georgia Tech would turn up their level of play, as they went on a 7-0 run behind baskets by freshman Josh Okogie, junior Tadric Jackson and freshman Sylvester Ohbonda, who would cut the deficit to nine, 21-12, with 9:51 to go.
TCU continued to play their pressure defense and attack on the boards, and ran their offense efficiently, despite missing all six attempts at three-pointers. But the Horned Frogs would go into halftime with an eleven-point lead, 38-27.
The second half continued to be more of the same, as TCU continued to keep the lead in double-digits, and the Horned Frogs continued to stick to their game plan, as they led by thirteen, 47-34, with 17:12 left, after a three-point play by junior Kenrich Williams. Moments later, after a tip-in dunk by Brodziansky, the Horned Frogs would extend their lead to fifteen, 54-39, with 15:08 to go.
Although the Yellow Jackets had more of an advantage over their counterparts from three-point range, they turned the ball over more than the Horned Frogs did and also were deficient in the low block, which led to TCU gaining a twenty-five point lead, 74-49, with 5:20 to go. For the rest of the game, it was apparent that the Yellow Jackets would be no match for their counterparts as the Horned Frogs would go on to cruise to an NIT title.
Williams led TCU with 25 points and 12 rebounds and Brodziansky added 18 points and six rebounds. For Georgia Tech, junior Tadric Jackson added 19 points and freshman Josh Okogie added 12 points in the loss.