As the outcome swung in the balance during TCU’s long-awaited return to a postseason men’s basketball tournament, first-year coach Jamie Dixon reflected on some emotions that helped carry the team into Sunday’s second-round matchup against Iowa in the NIT.
“We love coaching this team. We love coaching these guys. And we didn’t want it to be done,” Dixon said after the Horned Frogs applied the finishing touches to a 66-59 victory over Fresno State that secured the school’s first 20-win season in 12 years. “Our goals going into it was win No. 20, have a better senior night for our guys and get our first win in this tournament. So there were a lot of things to accomplish here in one game.”
Eventually, the Frogs (20-15) hit all of those goals Wednesday night in Schollmaier Arena to set up Sunday’s 6:30 p.m. matchup at Iowa (19-14), the No. 1 seed in TCU’s quadrant of the NIT (ESPNU). The Frogs, a No. 4 seed, head to Iowa City after winning their first postseason contest since the 2012 College Basketball Invitational and their first triumph in either of the top two postseason tournaments since the 2005 NIT.
Until Wednesday, TCU’s last NIT win was a 78-76 overtime decision at Western Michigan on March 21, 2005. What was happing in 2005 for TCU guard Alex Robinson, who led the Frogs with team-highs of 14 points and five assists against Fresno State?
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“I was probably playing PlayStation 2,” Robinson said, reflecting on the gaming system used in his favorite NBA-themed video game as an elementary school student. “And playing as Jason Kidd.”
Robinson, a sophomore from Mansfield Timberview who began his college career at Texas A&M, did just fine playing as himself against the Bulldogs (20-13). He scored eight of TCU’s points during a 13-2 run in the second half that turned a 47-47 tie into a 60-49 TCU advantage with 5:16 remaining. Robinson began the surge with a layup, capped it with another layup and mixed in a 3-pointer and a free throw along the way.
“Down the stretch, it’s a make or miss game,” said TCU forward Chris Washburn, a senior who contributed 6 points and 4 rebounds in 16 minutes off the bench. “When they went on their run, we had to answer them. And we came back and answered it.”
The surge secured TCU’s first victory in any postseason tournament since defeating Milwaukee, 83-73, in the CBI on March 13, 2012. More important to Washburn and fellow seniors, it secured a 20-win season for the first time in their college careers.
“Most definitely. From where we’ve been, 20 wins is special,” said guard Brandon Parrish, a senior from Arlington Seguin who holds the TCU school record for games played (132). “That’s a huge milestone, at least for me personally. This is a great stepping stone for the program.”