TCU Reaches NIT Final

By Everett Merrill, The Sports Xchange

NEW YORK — Texas Christian coach Jamie Dixon instilled in his players how important playing at Madison Square Garden is to him.
The Garden is where he won 25 games as the head coach at Pittsburgh, including the 2008 Big East Conference tournament. He also recorded seven victories over Top 25 opponents.
Dixon was named Madison Square Garden’s Coach of the Decade (2000-09).
Dixon, in his first year at his alma mater, added another Garden memory Tuesday when his Horned Frogs defeated Central Florida 68-53 in the semifinals of the NIT.
Texas Christian (23-15) will make its first appearance in the NIT final. Should the Horned Frogs defeat Georgia Tech (21-15) on Thursday, they would match the school record for wins when Dixon was a senior in 1987.
“I love this place,” Dixon said about the World’s Most Famous Arena. “I’m a New Yorker by my parents. I tried to get the message across to our players how important it is to play at Madison Square Garden.”
Dixon’s sister Maggie was the women’s coach at West Point. She died in 2006 of a heart arrhythmia and in her honor the Maggie Dixon Classic is held each year at the Garden. It’s considered the premier women’s tournament in the country.
“I think they (players) sensed how important it is to me and I appreciate them for recognizing that and understanding my connection with New York and our families’ connection to West Point and the Garden,” Dixon said. “I’m thankful for that. We love this place.”
Vladimir Brodziansky had 18 points and nine rebounds to lead the Horned Frogs, who have won four of their last five games. Kenrich Williams added 14 points, 14 rebounds and seven of TCU’s 20 assists. He is 14th in the country with 18 double-doubles.
Matt Williams topped UCF (24-12) with 15 points but scored just two in the second half when the Knights were outscored 39-22.
UCF got as close as 57-50 with 3:21 to play before TCU scored eight straight points for a 65-50 cushion.
The Knights shot just 25 percent from the field in the second half and made only 1 of 14 3-pointers.
“I think at times when we got down, I felt we were rushing,” UCF coach Johnny Dawkins said. “We were trying to make it all up one shot and that’s not who we’ve been. We have to understand that it’s a long game and keep playing it possession by possession.
“There’s no 10-point shot, so we needed to have a little more poise.”
TCU opened up the second half with a 16-5 barrage to move ahead 45-34. J.D. Miller led the run with five points.
Williams led the second half charge for TCU with 12 of his 14 points, going 5 of 7.
“I thought Kenrich was terrific in the second half,” Dixon said. “He just kind took over, passing, finishing, offensive rebounding. We just let him go do his thing.”
Williams received encouragement at the break from one of TCU’s assistant coaches.
“He just told me I need to pick it up, pick my play up,” Williams said. “I did a little bit more hustling the second half and thankful that the ball touched my hand.”
UCF was 5 of 11 from 3-point range in the first half.
The Knights led 29-19 with 5:12 left in the half before TCU went on a 10-0 run to tie it at 29-29.
Williams, who led the Knights with 13 first-half points, knocked down a jumper with 49 seconds left for a 31-29 UCF lead.

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