MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota – Texas Tech will play for a national championship on Monday night after closing out a 61-51 semifinal win over Michigan State on Saturday on a 9-0 run and limiting the Spartans to 31.9 percent shooting in front of 72,711 fans in attendance at U.S. Bank Stadium.
“I’m just really happy for these guys,” Texas Tech coach Chris Beard said. “We knew we weren’t going to out-tough Michigan State, but we wanted to try to match their toughness. In the basketball game, there were some things we had to get done. We knew it had to be a low turnover game. I think we had one or two turnovers in the second half, so that gave us a chance. We had some big-time individual performances when we needed it most. We’re excited to live another day and get to play on Monday night.”
Texas Tech (31-6) and Virginia (34-3) will play at 8:20 p.m. on Monday on CBS. The Red Raiders, who are making their first Final Four appearance in program history and broke the school record for most wins in a season, are now 8-1 in the NCAA Tournament under coach Beard after holding an opponent under 60 points for the 19th time this season.
“He (Beard) told us in the summer — I don’t know if it was the first day, but it was early,” Mooney said. “He said, we have enough in this gym, in this locker room right here to play on the final Monday night, and either Coach is psychic — he might be psychic because here we are on the final Monday night. We just believed him and believed in each other all year long.”
Matt Mooney led the Red Raiders with 22 points, while Jarrett Culver added 10 points and five rebounds, Norense Odiase pulled down nine rebounds and Tariq Owens had three blocks and seven points in a game where Tech had only seven turnovers and limited the Spartans (32-7) to only 7-for-24 (29.2 percent) on 3-pointers. Brandone Francis contributed nine points and Kyler Edwards six from the bench, while Davide Moretti had five to help lead the Red Raiders to their first national final appearance in program history.
“They’re great players, great interior players,” Odiase said. “They’re tough, gritty. We just tried to do a good job on them, slow them down as best as we can. Not just me and Tariq, but our whole team since we switched. I thought our smaller guys battled. They really fought and they were able to help us keep switching the whole game, and it just helped us towards our game plan.”
Virginia advanced with a 63-62 win over Auburn in the first national semifinal with Kyle Guy making three free-throws in the final second of the game. The Cavaliers (34-3) were down by four with 17 seconds remaining in the game before the comeback that ended the Tigers season at 30-10. Ty Jerome led Virginia with 21 points and nine rebounds, while Guy had 15 including going 3-for-3 at the free-throw line with all three coming with 0.6 seconds on the clock.
Tech led 23-21 at halftime and would never trail in the second half, but did see the Spartans cut the lead to one at 52-51 with 2:54 to play after the lead had been as big as 13 when Mooney hit a 3-pointer with 10 minutes on the clock. With the gap down to one, Culver hit a jumper and then a free throw to make it a four-point lead and then popped a 3-pointer for a 58-51 lead. Two free throws by Odiase and another by Culver sealed the double-digit win.
“On behalf of everybody in our program, I just want to congratulate Michigan State on another Final Four berth, championship season,” Beard said. “I have so much respect for them. When you’re in games like this and you have a week to prepare, I basically watched every game Michigan State played this year, every interview, every article, and you kind of get to know somebody. This is one of the class programs of all of college basketball. Coach Izzo’s handshake and kind words to me after the game is something I’ll never forget in my career. So personally, that was pretty cool.”
Mooney matched a season-high with 22 points to lead the Red Raiders after hitting four 3-pointers and going 8-for-16 from the field. A graduate transfer, Mooney scored 13 of his 22 points in the second half where he was 3-for-5 from beyond the arc.
“He’s obviously very, very talented, but the thing that really impressed me tonight was just his courage, just to be able to make those big plays and want to be in those moments,” Beard said. “When Culver was — I’m not going to say struggling a little bit, I think when Michigan State was focused on Culver so much, Matt had the courage to step up and take those shots. He’s making plays on both ends. I loved his poise tonight. He’s a special player.”
The Red Raiders finished the game with nine 3-pointers and shot 43.1 percent from the field in the game, including going 14-for-25 (56.0 percent) in the second half. Tech was 5-for-10 from beyond the arc in the second half and committed only two turnovers in the final 20 minutes of the game. Culver scored nine of his 10 points in the second half and also had two assists in the game.
Cassius Winston led MSU with 16 points, while Matt McQuaid added 12 and Aaron Henry had 11. The Spartans were 15-for-47 from the field in the game, including going 3-for-13 on 3-pointers in the second half.
Texas Tech took a 23-21 lead into halftime with Mooney leading with nine points, while Owens and Francis each had five. The Red Raiders hit four 3-pointers in the first half and held the Spartans to 30.4 percent shooting that included them going 1-for-9 to close out the half. Tech forced seven turnovers in the half and had three blocked shots. Owens had two of those blocks and also had a steal and a 3-pointer to start the game. Both teams led by as many as five in the opening half with the Spartans up 16-11 with 10:37 remaining in the half on a pair of free throws by Winston before the Red Raiders responded with an 8-0 run that started with a Mooney 3-pointer and then a jumper before Francis drilled a 3-pointer to give the Red Raiders a 19-16 lead. Another Mooney jumper gave Tech a 23-18 lead with 2:08 to play in the first half for the final Red Raider points before halftime. Winston, who had nine points at half, pulled the Spartans to within two at the break with a 3-pointer with one minute remaining in the half.
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) April 7, 2019
The #TwinCitiesTakeover is REAL.
4️⃣0️⃣ more minutes.
— Texas Tech Basketball (@TexasTechMBB) April 7, 2019
— Texas Tech Basketball (@TexasTechMBB) April 7, 2019