TCU will play Georgia Tech for the National Invitation Tournament championship Thursday at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The final’s berth is a first in program history.
Georgia Tech defeated CSU Bakersfield 76-61, in Tuesday’s semifinal. The Yellow Jackets are led by freshman forward Josh Okogie, who is averaging 16.2 points per game, and ACC Defensive Player of the Year, center Ben Lammers. Like TCU, GT is led by a first-year coach, Josh Pastner, who was named ACC Coach of the Year this season.
Both Okogie and Lammers have caught the attention TCU head coach Jamie Dixon.
“Obviously his [Okogie’s] numbers are tremendous for a freshman, especially in the ACC,” Dixon said.”Unbelievable athlete and plays very hard, gets to the basket and is always trying to get fouled, gets to the free throw line, so we’ll try to keep him off the line, make him take jump shots, and keep him off the offensive boards.
Lammers, GT’s center and defensive anchor, is a player that Dixon recruited when he was the head coach at Pitt.
“We had recruited him and looked at him down when he was in Texas back when I was at Pitt,” Dixon said. “He is an unbelievable defensive player and he rebounds at the same time, so he does some really good things and he’s unique.”
TCU will employ a similar strategy against Lammers to the one the Horned Frogs used against UCF’s 7-foot-6 inch center Tacko Fall Tuesday night.
“We have to go at him like we went at Fall,” Dixon said.
The Horned Frogs eventually forced UCF’s shot-blocking tall-man to foul out with a few minutes left in their semifinal matchup.
“We emphasized more driving, penetrating, making decisions, and finding the open guy,” Dixon said. “I thought once we started to hit some some guys, getting some layups on dump-offs, Fall had to stay closer to his guy.”
For TCU, Thursday’s game will mark the final time its seniors take the court wearing the Horned Frog purple and white. One final victory would send them sailing off into the sunset as NIT Champions.
“If we’re able to do that, it would really be a dream come true for me,” said senior guard Brandon Parrish, playing in his school-record 136th game for the Horned Frogs. “Just thinking about our time here and how low some of our moments have been, for us to end on a moment so high, it would be so special. Especially for the seniors. And it would be great for our program to help our young guys to start off with success and give them the success. Give them the momentum to achieve greater things than this.”
Tipoff at Madison Square Garden Thursday night is set for 7 p..m.