By Brett Hoffman
NEW YORK — TCU just doesn’t want basketball season to end.
Though the Horned Frogs gave the impression they didn’t have it during the first 15 minutes of the National Invitational Tournament semifinal game against Central Florida on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden, the Horned Frogs maintained their composure and went on a furious rally throughout the remaining 25 minutes.
“We don’t want the season to end,” TCU coach Jamie Dixon said. “I think it might be more motivation than anything. The guys are practicing hard.”
TCU routed Central Florida, 68-53, and will advance to the NIT men’s finals for the first time in the school’s history. TCU will face Georgia Tech, a 76-61 winner over Cal State Bakersfield in a NIT semifinal game on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. Though TCU has qualified for the NIT seven times in program history, this marks the first time TCU has reached the NIT title game.
TCU improved to 23-15. Central Florida finished the year at 24-12.
TCU won the semifinal after outscoring Central Florida, 39-22, during the second half.
TCU was led by junior forward Vladimir Brodziansky who had 18 points and junior guard Kenrich Williams who had 14.
“First half, we didn’t play too well, but we were playing hard,” Williams said. “Second half, we played, I think we played pretty good. We were hitting shots.”
The Knights shot well in the early part of the game and took a 29-19 lead with 5:12 remaining in the first half when their marquee player, Matt Williams, hit a three pointer.
Though the Horned Frogs were down by 10, they went on a 10-2 run during the last four minutes of the first half. TCU cut the lead to two points and trailed, 31-29, at the end of the first half.
“We made a run at the end of the first half and at the end of it, I thought we had the momentum going in,” Dixon said. “I thought we played pretty good defense. [Matt] Williams hit some really tough shots, but we didn’t get too upset about that, frustrated. We just stuck with what we were doing defensively.”
TCU opened the second half with a 16-3 run. The Horned Frogs led, 45-34, when Brodziansky hit a free throw with 15:44 remaining in the game.
TCU outscored UCF, 23-19, throughout the remainder of the game to seal the victory. TCU shot 50 percent from the field in the second half, and finished the game 26 of 60 from the field.
Dixon said the team is highly motivated.
“When you talk to my assistants, you can’t believe how much energy they have brought into each practice,” Dixon said in a post-game news conference late Tuesday night. “They love going to practice and they love being around each other. The celebration in the locker room was, you could see the joy. But we’re going to enjoy it for about two hours and then we’ll get ready for Georgia Tech.”
Will meet Georgia Tech in the NIT title game at 7 p.m. Thursday night. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.
– The Associated Press contributed to this report.