There wasn’t a more fascinating Elite Eight matchup this year than the final in the West Region between 1-seed Gonzaga and 3-seed Texas Tech. The former boasts the best offense in college hoops, while the latter has the sport’s most ruthless defense. Ultimately, the tenacious Red Raiders were able to get the job done, punching the first ticket to the Final Four in program history with a 75-69 win over the Bulldogs.
The first half was as hotly-contested as everyone anticipated. Gonzaga dictated the tempo of the game, speeding things up and letting the trio of Brandon Clarke, Rui Hachimura, and Josh Perkins cook. The Zags took a 37-35 lead into the locker room, with those three combining for 31 of those points.
Still, despite the fact that the Bulldogs controlled the pace, and despite the fact that Jarrett Culver had seven points on an inefficient 3-for-10 from the field, Tech kept up with their foes. The hero was Matt Mooney, who paced his squad with 11 early points. Both teams were able to get hot from deep, as the Red Raiders hit five triples in the frame, while the Bulldogs knocked down four.
Texas Tech’s defense is its calling card, but Gonzaga was still able to hit half of its attempts from the field during the first half. In the second half, the game stayed close, with the Red Raiders imposing themselves defensively a bit more. The final 20 minutes featured a delightful display out of both teams — there was execution on both ends of the floor along with some ridiculous playmaking and shot making that made it impossible to look away.
The backbreaking shots came from Davide Moretti, the sophomore guard whose family surprised him by coming over from Italy to watch him play. Moretti nailed a pair of triples down the stretch to make the game start to look inevitable.
The play that everyone will remember came from Red Raider big man Tariq Owens. Texas Tech’s standout shot blocking big man erased an attempted triple by Hachimura, and while he should have been called out of bounds after he saved it and got it into a teammate, this is still an absolutely insane defensive play.
Things did get hairy down the stretch. With Gonzaga down five, Moretti brought the ball up the court. In what might have been cosmic forces getting the Bulldogs back for the missed out of bounds, a kicked ball went uncalled, which led to a Perkins triple to cut the lead to two.
Still, Texas Tech was able to get the win, partly thanks to a technical foul against Perkins down the stretch. Mooney was trying to inbound the pass after a Gonzaga bucket, but Perkins reached across the baseline and touched the ball, giving way to Moretti — a 92.1 percent free throw shooter — nailing a pair of threes to effectively ice it.
Culver had a rough night from the field, but still led Texas Tech with 19 points and five rebounds. Mooney pitched in 17 points and five rebounds, Moretti pitched in 12 points, and Owens stuffed the stat sheet, going for nine points, seven rebounds, and five blocks. Hachimura’s 22 points and six rebounds paced the Bulldogs, while Clarke had 18 points and 12 rebounds. Perkins contributed 16 points and six assists.
With the win, the Red Raiders advance to take on either Duke or Michigan State in the Final Four. That’ll be determined following their matchup on Sunday — Texas Tech hasn’t played the Spartans this year, but it did take on the Blue Devils at Madison Square Garden in December. Mike Krzyewski’s squad came out on top, 69-58.