TCU ended its season on a high note Thursday, beating Georgia Tech, 88-56, at Madison Square Garden to win the NIT championship.
“I just feel like this team was getting better and better in late-March,” TCU head coach Jamie Dixon said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “They really bought in and gave every ounce that they had, and it continued late in the year. We went through a tough stretch. We felt we were an NCAA Tournament team, but we didn’t get it done because of that losing streak. So I told our guys, ‘Hey, we feel we are. If you feel you are, go do something about it. Win this NIT, and win it in convincing fashion.’ And that’s what they did.”
TCU endured a brutal seven-game losing streak late in the year. In fact, the Horned Frogs didn’t win a single game from Feb. 7 to March 8.
But then they started winning. TCU (24-15) won seven of its last eight games, with the only loss coming to eventual Big 12 champion Iowa State.
Not a bad first year for Dixon, who inherited a team that went 12-21 last season.
“I just came in and I said, ‘It’s not a rebuild. I expect to win – and win right away,’” said Dixon, who played for TCU from 1984-87. “I had a different approach. These seniors, coming in here and (thinking) rebuild, saying they’re not good enough is doing a disservice to them. We believed. Our goal was going to be the NCAA Tournament. I believe that’s the way you build programs. I followed a guy that coached them hard, that was a good coach, that just ran into injuries and challenges, Trent Johnson. So rather than take away from him, I talked about these guys are ready, they’ve been coached, they’ve been taught, and they’re prepared to win – and win right now. We had the toughest league in the country going into it. We knew that. But our guys responded and they kept getting better. We’re an NCAA Tournament team, but the fact is, we didn’t get it done. We showed that we were by our play at the end of the year.”
Junior guard Kenrich Williams had game-highs of 25 points and 12 rebounds in the NIT championship, while junior forward Vladimir Brodziansky had 18 points and six rebounds.
“I wish we had a game tomorrow, but we’re going to get to class and celebrate this and build for the future,” Dixon said. “We got a great class coming in, and we’ve got our top six scorers coming back. TCU basketball has arrived, and I think people are going to take notice of it. Our fans certainly have, and it’s fun to watch.”