Jackets routed by TCU in NIT championship

Georgia Tech’s season-long climb ended one rung shy of the top of the ladder.

Against a team that similarly bucked low expectations, the Yellow Jackets were denied the NIT championship they sought. Tech lost 88-56 to TCU in the NIT final Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.

Tech (21-16) was bailing water early, falling behind 10-0 and 21-5. Tech’s first five possessions: Turnover, blocked shot, missed shot, missed shot, turnover. Meanwhile, the Horned Frogs took advantages of the misses and turnovers to race up the court for easy transition baskets.

Tech rallied, raising its defensive energy to create transition scores and close to six midway through the first half, but never got closer for the remainder of the game. A 7-0 second-half run, centerpieced by a putback dunk by TCU forward Vladimir Brodziansky, raised the lead to 56-39 at the 14:32 mark and began to ensure the final outcome.

It was a humbling finish to a season that captured the attention and hearts of the Tech fan base. Playing with confidence and efficiency in its first four NIT games, the Jackets accumulated 77 assists on 106 field-goal attempts while averaging 9.8 turnovers per game and shooting 47.3 percent from the field. Against TCU, the Jackets had 12 assists on its 20 field-goal attempts with 17 turnovers, while shooting 35.7 percent from the field.

TCU (24-15) hammered the Jackets on the glass, outscoring them 21-7 in second-chance points. The Horned Frogs’ 88 points were the second most scored on Tech this season and 22 above its season average.

Tech was led by guard Tadric Jackson’s 19 points, accumulated on 8-for-14 shooting from the field. Guard Josh Okogie added 12. Stephens, who provided leadership and production throughout the season, had a rough night, scoring five points on 2-for-8 shooting. Center Ben Lammers, encumbered by foul trouble, was off his game, scoring eight points on 1-for-11 shooting.

Tech hoped for a storybook finish to a season that began with the dimmest of expectations with a first-year coach leading a team that had lost its four most productive players and was projected to be the third weakest power-conference team in the country. School president G.P. “Bud” Peterson and wife, Valerie, along with athletic director Todd Stansbury, were among those in attendance in hopes of finishing off a season that had included wins over four NCAA Tournament teams with the school’s first NIT championship.

They could offer only consolation on this night. With just over two minutes to play, coach Josh Pastner removed his starters, including seniors Josh Heath, Corey Heyward and Stephens, to a standing ovation from the Tech fans in attendance.

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