On a night the TCU basketball team celebrated its seniors and closed out its home schedule at Schollmaier Arena, it was fitting that those seniors led the Horned Frogs to a win.
And no matter how this TCU men’s basketball season ultimately ends, it will already be remembered as the most successful in 20 years.
Sure, the Horned Frogs won the National Invitational Tournament a year ago, a mighty accomplishment in Jamie Dixon’s first season coaching his alma mater. But a year later they are headed back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1998.
A 66-59 win Tuesday night over Kansas State just put the final stamp on TCU’s bid.
The Horned Frogs (21-9, 9-8 in the Big 12) won four consecutive conference games for the first time since 1998, the last time they earned an NCAA tournament berth. They won their ninth conference game, which is their most since 2001.
"I like our team right now; we're playing our best basketball at the end," TCU coach Jamie Dixon said. "Our eight guys really understand their rolls. I think we’re playing as good as anybody so we’re excited about."
Vladimir Brodziansky hadn't done much offensively all night until he sank his first field goal.
Brodziansky's wide-open 3-pointer swooshed through the net and gave the Frogs a four-point lead with under two minutes remaining.
With just under a minute to play, Brodziansky clinched the win with a blocked shot against Kansas State’s Barry Brown.
After a quiet night, Brodziansky finished loud. Five of his seven points came in the final five minutes.
"It’s our last ride here in this gym so through [dealing with] all these close games [this season], we learned how to finish," said Brodziansky, who is now 12th all-time in TCU's career scoring leaders with 1,322 points. His string of 20 consecutive games scoring in double figures was snapped.
He didn't care as long as the Frogs won in his home finale. "It was the reason why we came here, to turn the program around," he said.
TCU was trailing by one when Desmond Bane poked the ball away from Makol Mawien, chased down the loose ball and raced to the rim for a layup to give the Frogs a 57-56 lead with 2:24 remaining. They never trailed again.
TCU struggled from the 3-point arc, especially in the second half. The Frogs were 5-of-20 on 3-point attempts, including 2-of-13 in the second half.
TCU, which leads the Big 12 in field goal percentage, had an overall off-night from the field. They finished the game shooting 44.2 percent, but were shooting as low as 30 percent with 3:50 remaining.
The Frogs have won 21 games in the regular season for the first time since 1998. A year ago they finished with 24 wins after winning their final five to capture the NIT title.
Kenrich Williams, one of six players who were honored in a pregame ceremony on Senior Night, led TCU with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Senior Ahmed Hamdy added eight points and five rebounds.
"It means everything," Williams said of TCU's pending NCAA bid. "The only goal I had was to get to the tournament and turn our program around. To be able to do that means a lot."
Dean Wade led Kansas State (20-10, 9-8) with 24 points, while Barry Brown had 17 points and six assists.
The Frogs close out the regular season against Texas Tech at 3 p.m. Saturday in Lubbock.
KANSAS ST. (20-10): Wade 10-14 3-4 24, Sneed 1-6 0-0 2, Mawien 4-9 1-2 9, Brown 7-10 1-2 17, Diarra 1-4 0-0 3, Stockard 1-2 0-0 2, Love 1-1 0-0 2, Stokes 0-6 0-0 0, Wainright 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 25-53 5-8 59.
TCU (21-9): Noi 1-7 1-4 3, Brodziansky 1-3 4-4 7, Williams 7-12 0-1 16, Robinson 3-6 2-4 8, Bane 4-10 6-6 15, Hamdy 3-6 2-7 8, Miller 2-4 0-0 4, Olden 2-4 0-0 5. Totals 23-52 15-26 66.
Halftime—TCU 33-29. 3-Point Goals—Kansas St. 4-9 (Brown 2-2, Diarra 1-1, Wade 1-2, Wainright 0-1, Sneed 0-1, Stokes 0-2), TCU 5-20 (Williams 2-4, Brodziansky 1-1, Olden 1-3, Bane 1-5, Robinson 0-2, Noi 0-5). Fouled Out—Brown. Rebounds—Kansas St. 29 (Sneed, Mawien 7), TCU 34 (Williams 11). Assists—Kansas St. 15 (Brown 6), TCU 14 (Robinson 5). Total Fouls—Kansas St. 18, TCU 10. Technicals—TCU coach Jamie Dixon. A—6,682 (7,201).