Defense once again key in leading Texas Tech to the National Championship game
Texas Tech is the best defensive team in College Basketball, if you look at any analytics site like Haslametrics or KenPom, they would agree with you. If you came into this game not knowing that already, watching them on the defensive end for the majority of the game would tell you what this team is about.
The first half was maybe the best example of how great the Texas Tech defense is, as they were stifling on the defensive end, with all the players were forcing tough shots at the rim, while they were able to close out on three-point shooters. The Red Raiders trailed 16-11 about halfway through the first half but an 8-minute segment where the Spartans only scored two points allowed them to take a 23-21 into the halftime break.
At the start of the second half, both teams made adjustments on the offensive end, so both teams were able to get better looks and it resulted in a better offense from both teams. Leading 32-29, Tariq Owens went down with an ankle injury, which seemed like it would be a big hit but shortly after that happened Texas Tech went on an 11-3 run, which was headlined by a couple of stops and two big threes by Matt Mooney.
While Matt Mooney was having a great game, Jarrett Culver was struggling on offense, which helped earn him some time on the bench, while Texas Tech went on that run. Tariq Owens returned to the bench around the under-8 timeout and he was able to play again, following that ankle injury. The Texas Tech lead was 52-43 with 7:12 left, before Michigan State shut the Red Raiders down on offense for over five minutes, allowing them to trim the lead to one.
Jarrett Culver responded to that run by hitting a big jumper to hold Michigan State off a little bit. Culver got back to the line and made 1 of 2 free throws to give the Red Raiders a 55-51 lead with about 90 seconds left to play. On the following defensive possession, Norense Odiase ripped the ball away from Xavier Tillman, giving Tech the ball. Like any big shotmaker would, Jarrett Culver stepped up and hit a dagger three to make it a 7-point game. Michigan State would not be able to make a shot in the final 2:55 of the game and Texas Tech advanced to the programs first ever Final Four.
Chris Beard told his team before the game that he wanted them to match Michigan State’s toughness, while he said rebounding was a key. In the game, the Red Raiders seemed to match, if not out-tough the Spartans, while they were only out rebounded by 2. The Red Raiders will meet Virginia in the National Championship game with a chance to win the programs first-ever National Championship.