NEW YORK—When TCU stepped onto the court to face Georgia Tech at the National Invitation Tournament, ESPN gave the Horned Frogs a 64 percent chance to winning.
In this case, ESPN, which broadcast the game on its mothership network, got it right.
TCU routed Georgia Tech, 88-56, and clinched the school’s first ever NIT men’s basketball title on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
TCU thrived on sharp shooting from junior guard Kenrich Williams who was the game’s leading scorer with 25 points.
“This is huge for our program and our school,” Williams said. “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 will be better.”
TCU first year coach Jamie Dixon said he was pleased with the way the Horned Frogs have played.
“I certainly loved the way we played, especially defensively,” Dixon said. “It’s a team that’s gotten better defensively as the year has gone on and especially those last couple of weeks. I told them [the team], I wish we had another game tomorrow.”
TCU finished the year with a 24-15 record. Georgia Tech finished at 24-16.
TCU never trailed throughout the entire game. TCU opened the game with 10-0 run that was capped with long jumper by J.D. Miller with 2:35 into the game. The Horned Frogs followed up with an 10-3 run to take a 20-3 lead that cumulated with a with a Karvaiar Shepherd layup with 6:18 remaining in the first half.
“I thought we came out ready to play,” Williams said. “The first five minutes for us was huge in the first half and I think it translated to the whole game.”
Georgia Tech went on a scoring spree midway through the first half. The Yellow Jackets pulled within 6 points shy of TCU, 21-15, when Tadric Jackson hit a three pointer with 7:13 remaining in the first half.
But TCU responded when Miller converted a three point play on a lay-up and a free throw to give the Horned Frogs a 24-15 lead with 6:26 remaining in the first half.
After that, TCU outscored Georgia Tech, 14-12, during the remainder of the first half.
The Horned Frogs led 38-27 at halftime.
TCU maintained its intensity throughout the second half. The Horned Frogs outscored the Yellow Jackets 50-29 during the second half.
TCU shot 56.8 percent from the field in the second half, and finished the game 35 of 68 from the field (51.5 percent.).
It was a very emotional game for four TCU seniors. The seniors are Michael Williams (a 6-foot-2 guard from San Antonio), Brandon Parrish (a 6-foot-6 guard from Arlington); Karviar Shepherd (a 6-foot-11forward from Dallas) and Chris Washburn (a 6-foot-8 forward from Grand Prairie).
During the 2013-14 season, the four men witnessed no conference wins in Big 12 action. The team was 0-18.
But this year, under Dixon, the four seniors were an integral part of one of college basketball’s biggest turnarounds.
None of the four seniors started during Thursday night’s game. Younger players such as Kenrich Williams have emerged and became the team’s star players.
Parrish said he was glad to be part of the process this season.
“To be in this moment right now speaks volumes to our commitment and our hard work,” Parrish said. “We came in to our conference season as a winless team. But we knew were not losers. We never felt like we were losers and we continued to fight and work. We dedicated our lives to this program.”
Dixon emptied his bench in the final minutes, and reserve Josh Parrish, the freshman brother of Brandon Parrish, had a breakaway windmill jam in the final seconds.
“I’ve always known my brother was so bouncy,” senior Brandon Parrish said with a laugh. “To be able to see him come off the bench after 39 minutes and be able to jump up there and do a windmill, it was just phenomenal for us to be able to share this moment.”
Dixon praised the seniors for their staunch commitment.
“They bought in, they believed and they led in so many ways,” Dixon said. “I can’t thank them enough.”