FORT WORTH—Before the TCU men’s basketball team routed Richmond, 86-68, on Tuesday night at Schollmaier Arena, the Horned Frogs had never gotten past a National Invitation Tournament quarterfinal round.
In their last NIT appearance in 2005, the Horned Frogs advanced in the first two rounds before falling to Maryland in the quarterfinal. In 1999, TCU fell to Oregon in a NIT quarterfinal game in Fort Worth.
That’s as close as it had ever gotten. But TCU has broken through the NIT quarterfinal barrier this season under first-year coach Jamie Dixon. After winning the third round quarterfinal NIT game on Tuesday in dramatic fashion, the Horned Frogs will advance to the NIT’s Final Four and a semifinal game against either UCF or Illinois next Tuesday (March 28) at New York’s Madison Square Garden. The Fighting Illini and UCF Knights meet in a quarterfinal game that will be televised on ESPN2 at 6 p.m. Wednesday (March 22).
“I don’t know if you could have written it up any better,” said TCU first year coach Jamie Dixon said who was a star on Horned Frogs basketball teams in the late 1980s. “To be at your alma mater, you want to make it special and to make it special on national TV. I’m glad everyone got to experience this.
“I want people to be proud of our basketball program. I want our seniors to be proud.”
After routing Richmond before a crowd of 5,946 during a live ESPN2 broadcast, No. 4 seed TCU improved to 22-15. The Spiders, a No. 6 seed, finished the year at 22-13.
Another milestone for TCU’s basketball program was junior guard Kenrich Williams finishing the game with the first ever triple-double effort in the school’s history. Williams finished with 11 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists.
TCU dominated the game from the get go. TCU led 37:35 of the 40 minutes.
They only time Richmond led was when De’Monte Buckingham and T.J. Kline hit a couple of baskets in the first 2:44 into the game. At that point, the Spiders led 5-4.
But TCU countered when Vlad Brodziansky hit a pair of free throws with 16:53 remaining in the opening half to give the Horned Frogs a 6-5 lead.
From that point one, TCU went on a poweerful offensive run and never trailed throughout the remainder of the game.
TCU led 41-26 at the end of the first half.
Richmond went on a 6-0 run at the beginning of the second half and pulled within 9 points, trailing 41-32 with 17:20 remaining in the game.
But TCU counted with an 8-0 to take a 49-32 lead with 16:54 remaining in the game. After that, the Horned Frogs held off any type of Richmond rally attempt to seal the victory.
TCU was balanced offensively with four Horned Frogs scoring in double figures. They were Brodziansky (20 points), Demond Baine (13), Alex Robinson (12) and Williams (11).
Richmond’s Kline was the game’s leading scorer with 33 points. Buckingham was the Spiders’ second highest scorer with 11.
As TCU took big, commanding leads, the Horned Frogs offensively stalled to burn up the clock throughout the game. The Horned Frogs at times turned the ball over for shot clock violations or they came pretty close. But though they often stalled, TCU consistently scored down the stretch to keep a wide marginal lead and Richmond at bay.
Brandon Parrish, a TCU senior who contributed 8 points, said it was a special way to finish the year on the Horned Frogs’ home court.
“This program has come so far,” Parrish said. “When I was a freshman, we had a winless conference record (0-18 in the Big 12 in the 2013-14 season). But now, we’re going to New York.”