TCU looks to draw on its advantage in the paint and the momentum gained from consecutive wins when it faces surprising Liberty on Sunday in the final of the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City, Mo.
The Horned Frogs (2-0) earned a berth in the title game via a 70-65 win over Tulsa on Saturday in the second of the tournament's semifinals. Liberty waylaid South Carolina 78-62 in the other semifinal.
Liberty (2-1) had five players score in double figures in its win, led by sophomore Kyle Rode's career-high 18 points. The victory, the Flames' second straight over a Southeastern Conference opponent after a win over Mississippi State on Thanksgiving Day, made Liberty 4-1 in its past five matchups with SEC foes.
Elijah Cuffee and Keegan McDowell added 13 points each for the Flames. Chris Parker had 12 and Darius McGhee scored 10 points for Liberty, which shot 56.4 percent from the field.
The Flames were 11 of 26 from beyond the arc on Saturday, three days after they made a program-record 19 3-pointers in their win against Mississippi State.
"I like our group and I like our culture," Liberty coach Ritchie McKay said after the Saturday win. "As a coach you always have some anxiousness trying to replace the guys we lost, and it would be hard for any program to do so, but to our guys' credit, given the early-season schedule they've battled."
Liberty led for just over 31 minutes against South Carolina and allowed a season-low 62 points, forcing the Gamecocks into 39 percent shooting from the floor.
"We have a belief that we are a good program and can compete on any given night," McKay added.
TCU had more of a tussle on Saturday, needing 16 points and a career-high-tying 18 rebounds from center Kevin Samuel and a final flurry to hold off Tulsa.
The Horned Frogs used a 17-2 run in the first half to erase a 10-point deficit. TCU led by six points at halftime and never trailed over the final 20 minutes, though the Golden Hurricane did pull even with 4:46 to go.
Freshman Mike Miles added 12 points for the Horned Frogs while Francisco Farabello scored 10 points.
Miles, who led the Horned Frogs with 13 points in their season-opening win over Houston Baptist, has already staked his claim as one of TCU's best shooters. He spent 60 days in quarantine over four different stretches in the offseason because of COVID-19.
"(Miles) has made good decisions as a freshman, came in with good feel for the game, played at a high level," TCU coach Jamie Dixon said. "We expect big things out of him. He's another guy who came in and transformed his body. He's right at 195 (pounds), where we want him to be."
--Field Level Media