Despite seemingly tired legs on both sides, the TCU Horned Frogs survived a defensive struggle against the Liberty Flames 56-52 to secure the championship of the Hall of Fame Classic Sunday afternoon in Kansas City.
Led by RJ Nembhard's 14 points, six rebounds and four assists, the Horned Frogs (3-0) remained perfect despite shooting only 40 percent from the field and 26.7 from 3-point range (4 for 15). TCU was playing its third game in a five-day span.
Darius McGhee, who led the Flames (2-2) with 15 points and nine rebounds, scored five of Liberty's points during a 7-0 run that cut TCU's lead to 54-52 with 30 seconds left.
After a missed free throw by TCU freshman Taryn Todd, Liberty had one last chance to tie it or win it. But with 2.1 seconds left, McGhee couldn't catch an inbound pass from Elijah Cuffee turning the ball over with 0.6 seconds remaining.
Nembhard sealed the outcome for TCU with a pair of free throws.
Liberty, which was playing its fourth game in five days, cooled off after back-to-back victories over Power 5 opponents (Mississippi State, South Carolina) in which they hit 30 shots from 3-point range. The Flames shot 21.4 percent from 3-point range (6 for 28) and made only 2 of 13 attempts from long range in the second half.
After a quiet first half in which he scored only two points, TCU 6-foot-11 center Kevin Samuel finished with eight points and five rebounds to help the Horned Frogs pull ahead for good.
Samuel's layup with 9:45 left sparked a 9-0 run that gave TCU a 45-36 edge. Kevin Easley Jr. and Samuel helped TCU control the boards down the stretch and Easley finished with seven points and seven rebounds.
Chris Parker finished with 13 points and four rebounds as well for Liberty, which shot 38.2 percent overall.
--Field Level Media