Frogs win Hall of Fame Classic behind Samuel’s strong presence

TCU defeated Liberty 56-52 on Nov. 29, 2020, to win the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City. (Photo courtesy of

By Colin Post

Behind a dominant effort by center Kevin Samuel, TCU basketball won both of its games this weekend to win the 2020 Hall of Fame Classic powered by ShotTracker.

Samuel combined for 24 points and 23 rebounds in two games and was named the tournament MVP.

The two wins move TCU to 3-0 on the season and give the Frogs their fourth in-season tournament championship under head coach Jamie Dixon.

Game 1

A monstrous double-double by Samuel led TCU to a 70-65 win over Tulsa on Saturday night in the team’s first major test of the season.

The center led the Frogs with 16 points, and tied his career high of 18 rebounds to go with two blocks.

Led by Samuel, the Frogs showed some grit down the stretch against the Golden Hurricanes.

Tulsa tied the game at 57 with 4:46 remaining, but TCU answered with a 4-0 run, started by a three-pointer from true freshman Mike Miles.

The Golden Hurricane then pulled back within two with just 92 seconds to go, but the Frogs answered with yet another three, this one courtesy of guard Taryn Todd.

TCU then hit five of its last six free throws to keep Tulsa just out of reach and advance to Sunday’s championship game.

“I liked how we grew during the game. [We] just got pushed around early,” Dixon said. “Lack of practice [means] young guys, not a physical bunch right now, but we will get there.”

Dixon added that he thinks that no team in the country has practiced less than TCU because of COVID-19 restrictions the Frogs have had to follow.

After starting the game with a 14-4 deficit, TCU never trailed in the second half.

Miles and guard Francisco Farabello joined Samuel in double-digit scoring with 12 and 10 points, respectively. Todd added nine with two made threes.

Junior R.J. Nembhard did score eight points in his first action of the season, but shot just 2-for-11 from the field. Nembhard missed the first game of the season due to COVID-19 protocols.

Four Horned Frogs made two or more three-pointers, with the team shooting a respectable 40.7% from deep. The behind-the-arc shooting had been a big question mark for the Frogs entering this year with the loss of Desmond Bane.

On the other hand, the Golden Hurricane went just 4-of-18 from deep (22.2%).

Game 2

A team-high 14 points from Nembhard, including two free throws to end the game, was just enough for TCU to edge out Liberty 56-52 on Saturday and secure the Hall of Fame Classic Championship trophy.

Nembhard finished 8-for-9 from the charity strip to make up for a 3-for-10 shooting night. The junior also added six boards and four assists, joining Samuel on the all-tournament team.

Nembhard said after the game that he “can’t make any excuses,” despite missing two weeks and the season opener because of COVID-19 protocols.

After TCU opened up a 12-3 lead to start the game, Liberty crawled its way back, setting the tone for what would be a battle the rest of the afternoon.

The Frogs held a slim 27-26 lead at halftime.

The Flames then took a one-point lead of their own seven minutes into the second half, but the Frogs responded with authority. Spurred by two-straight buckets from Samuel, the Frogs popped off on a 13-3 run to regain the lead.

TCU could never take a double-digit lead, though, as Liberty stayed in contention down to the final minute. After the Flame hit a layup with 30 seconds left to pull within two, Farabello forced a crucial turnover to end all hope for the Flames.

Farabello finished with eight points, going 2-for-3 from behind-the-arc. The sophomore has hit multiple threes in every game this season.

Samuel finished with eight points, five boards, a steal and a block.

“Against Tulsa and Liberty, you beat two teams who beat Power Five teams regularly,” Dixon said. “Those are hard to play.”

With two close wins and a championship trophy under their belt, the Frogs will head back home to face Northwestern State in their next contest. Tip-off against the Demons is scheduled for Dec. 3 at 7 p.m.