After an impressive effort tonight at Madison Square Garden, the TCU Horned Frogs will be playing for the NIT Championship this season.
Things looked good to start for the Frogs as JD Miller threw down a dunk on the opening possession, but TCU couldn’t get shots to fall and found themselves down 10-4 at the first media timeout. The Frogs kept it close and were only down 18-15 but back-to-back threes gave the Knights a 24-15 lead. TCU kept trying to reduce the gap, but UCF knocked down some timely threes and took a 7-point lead into the final media timeout of the half. However, the Frogs managed to come back and tie it up before UCF took a 31-29 lead into the half.
TCU struggled to get shots to fall in the first half, shooting 38.7% in the half, while UCF was able to knock down some big threes, going 5/11 from beyond the arc. The Frogs held a 20-18 advantage on the boards but turned the ball over one more time than the Knights in the first 20 minutes. TCU moved the ball well and had nine assists, whereas UCF only had three assists in the first half.
Vladimir Brodziansky led the way with 8 points for the Frogs on 4/8 shooting. Brandon Parrish added in 5 points off the bench and was a key part in getting the game close again. For UCF, it was Matt Williams doing most of the damage, scoring 13 points on 5/10 shooting and going 3/7 from deep. Tacko Fall, the Knights’ 7’6” behemoth, only scored 4 points, but had 3 blocks and caused problems in the paint on the defensive end.
TCU came out strong in the 2nd half and started on a 7-0 run to take a 36-31 lead, forcing UCF to call timeout. Kenrich Williams finished off a beautiful fast break alley-oop from Alex Robinson before knocking down a three off a Robinson assist. UCF ended that run with a three, but an 8-0 run by TCU extended the lead to 10 at the under-16 media timeout. Out of that break, both teams seemed to settle in a bit and the Frogs remained up by 9 at the under-12 timeout.
The Knights used some massive dunks to get back within 7 after TCU extended the lead to double-digits, but a put-back from Vlad kept the Frogs up 9 going into the under-8 media timeout. The scoring slowed down over the next few minutes, but TCU still maintained a 57-47 advantage going into the final media timeout.
UCF was able to knock down a few free throws and made it 57-50 with 3:17 to go, but Vlad answered and put TCU back up by 9. After another stop on the defensive end, Miller found Vlad underneath who finished through contact and made a free throw to put the Frogs up 62-50 with 2:41 left. Michael Williams then knocked down a big three to make it 65-50 in TCU’s favor. After that, it was pretty much in the books as the Frogs held on for the 68-53 victory.
As a team, TCU overcame a slow start from the field and poor shooting from the line to get the win. They only shot 43.3% from the field, but they showed great ball movement and assisted on 20 of their 26 made field goals. The Frogs only turned the ball over 12 times and did a great jobs on the glass, out-rebounding the Knights by 8.
Vlad was great in the 2nd half and led the team with 18 points, but the star of the game was Kenrich, who finished with yet another double-double. Kenny Hustle dropped in 14 points and pulled down 14 boards. He also nearly had a 2nd-straight triple-double, but came up 3 assists short. Miller added in 9 points and Robinson had a good night with 6 assists, but struggled from the field where he was 2/10.
For UCF, they were forced to play catch-up for most of the 2nd half and it was reflected by their poor shooting. The Knights shot 33.3% from the field and were 6/25 from beyond the arc. Matt Williams led the team with 15 points, but was 5/17 from the field and 3/11 from deep. Tacko Fall was a non-factor on the offensive end, as TCU held him to 7 points, but he did have 6 blocks on the defensive end.
Next, TCU will take on Georgia Tech, who beat Cal State Bakersfield 76-61 in the other semifinal, on Thursday in the Championship game. That will tip off at 7 pm CT and will be shown on ESPN.