Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver struggled to find his shot in Monday night’s 85-77 national championship loss to Virginia, making just five of 22 attempts. He scored 15 points, 4.2 below his season average.
Texas Tech’s leading scorer missed all six shots and scored just three points in the first half. But the struggles of Culver and the Red Raiders would not last long, however, as the 6-5 sophomore finally seemed to get going offensively in time to lead TTU's second half rally into overtime.
The guard converted on his first field goal of the night on a layup with 15:26 to play, and then hit two consecutive close range shots to get the Tech offense started up.
“They gave great defense,” Culver said. “They played the whole time, they all played hard, They played together. They have good defense...I was just trying to get to the basket, it just wasn’t going in tonight.”
Sophomore guard Parker Hicks noticed Culver starting to hit his stride in the second half.
“I just saw him get to the rim more,” Hicks said. “Once he saw the ball go through the basket taking some layups, the basket started to grow on him and I was proud that he finally let the game come to him. He didn’t really force it too much. He just relaxed and played his game.”
REDEMPTION: Virginia beats Texas Tech in OT thriller for first NCAA tournament title
Culver became a major factor in Texas Tech’s comeback in the second half, where they trailed by as many as 10 with 9:31 to go.
A 39.3 percent from the field before Monday night, he cashed in on just 22.7 percent of his attempts against Virginia. Culver attributed his poor shooting performance to the defensive ability of Virginia guard De’Andre Hunter.
“He’s a great player, athletic,” Culver said. “He played me well tonight.”
On the comeback in the second half, Hicks said that Tech simply went back to the strategy that got them to this point in the season.
“We just tried to be who we always are. Be aggressive and pride ourselves on defense and be the tougher team,” Hicks said.
The change in the game plan paid off as the Red Raiders were able to take a three-point lead over the Cavaliers with just 22 seconds remaining in the game, a 7-0 run that was kickstarted by a Culver layup with 35 seconds left to play.
The Red Raiders had one final shot to try and claim the national championship for the first time in school history. Naturally, Texas Tech coach Chris Beard turned to Culver, who’d had a stellar tournament despite the tough night from the field.
Off the inbounds pass in front of the Tech sideline, Culver caught the ball and went into his shooting motion in one swift move, only to have the potential game-winner swatted away by Virginia’s Braxton Key. The title game was headed to overtime.
In the extra period, Culver’s struggle returned. He missed all three shots. After the game, Beard looked back on the newly-ended season fondly.
“I’ve never been more proud of a team that I’ve coached,” Beard said. “I think what these guys have accomplished this year, Big 12 championship, Final Four, national championship game, we’ll graduate all five seniors here in a couple months, and these guys will go on to be great pros and fathers and husbands…..Just never been more proud of a group. A lot of emotion in our locker room right now, and it’s real, just guys that care about the guy next to them.”
When asked whether or not his career in Lubbock was over, Culver said that the decision to make the jump to the NBA has yet to be made.
“All season I just focused on my team and trying to win the national championship, so I haven’t thought about that any,” stated Culver. “Now that the season is over, I’ll take time with my family and coach to consider the future.”