Texas Tech is headed to the national championship game against Virginia after a 61-51 win over Michigan State.
Here are three things we learned.
The Texas Tech defense lived up to the hype
This was expected to be a defensive struggle, and in the first half, it was. The Red Raiders and Spartans combined for just 44 points. The basketball was not, as they say, pretty.
Texas Tech figured out its offense in the second half; Michigan State did to an extent, but it wasn't enough. This felt like it was more about the Red Raiders' D than the Spartans' O, though. Chris Beard's squad is feisty, brilliant and long. It's like they are playing with two extra dudes.
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They just don't mess up; with the amount of times they switch in a given possession, you'd think there would be a miscommunication somewhere. That rarely happens, and just when you think you've beaten a Red Raider defender, another appears out of nowhere. They are college basketball's version of Whac-A-Mole.
The Red Raiders held every Spartan in check. Jarrett Culver had a rough offensive showing, but he hounded Cassius Winston all night. Tariq Owens was a menacing rim-protector despite battling injuries throughout the game, blocking three shots and altering several others.
Michigan State shot 31.9 percent from the floor, 29.2 percent from 3-point range and committed 11 turnovers. This Red Raider defense made Gonzaga look ordinary. It's not surprising that it held the Spartans down, too.
When Matt Mooney rolls, so does Texas Tech
Texas Tech was 10-0 when Mooney scored 14 points or more coming into this game. Mooney notched his 14th point about midway through the second half, and the Red Raiders didn't look back.
Sometimes these kinds of stats are arbitrary or random. But this one makes sense. Texas Tech is generally a Culver-dependent team, so when the supporting cast plays well, they win. Mooney is a crucial member of said supporting cast.
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But he was the guy on Saturday night, with Culver struggling (more on that soon). He finished 8-of-16 from the field with 22 points and his usual superb defense.
Mooney was perhaps unfairly pigeonholed as a 3-and-D guy earlier in the season. He is both of those things, but that's underselling him. Mooney is an underrated shot-creator who can carry an offense for stretches, as Michigan State learned.
Texas Tech doesn't need Culver to shine in order to beat great teams
Culver was averaging 18.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.9 assists coming into the game. He went 3-of-12 for 10 points against the Spartans. He hit big shots late, but looked jittery early; several of his trademark pull-up jumpers were way long.
And yet, Texas Tech was just fine. Mooney starred, and the Red Raiders got nice contributions from their bench.
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Culver will probably need to play better in order to beat Virginia, to be clear. Mooney likely won't drop 22 on the Hoos. But there was a time when it felt like Texas Tech was hopeless on offense if Culver didn't go for 20 or more. He's been a constant all season; Mooney and Davide Moretti are the guys whose improvement have been most crucial to this run.
Texas Tech's defense is arguably the most consistently great unit in college basketball. The offense has been on fire since February, and Culver is a reason why. But he's not the only reason anymore, and Saturday night proved that. The Red Radiers are national championship bound, and national championship-level good.