ANAHEIM, CALIF.—Texas Tech is heading to its first men’s Final Four thanks to a kid from Italy who made the big shots and a defence that refuses to rest.
Davide Moretti opened up a late lead with the two most important three-pointers of his life, Tariq Owens came up with a big rejection and the Red Raiders caught a ride straight to Minneapolis with a 75-69 victory against top-seeded Gonzaga on Saturday.
Moretti also made all four of his free throws down the stretch to wind up with 10 of his 12 points over the final 1:50.
The first of them —a spot-up three-pointer from the side of the arc— gave third-seeded Texas Tech (30-6) a six-point lead, its biggest of the night, with 1:50 remaining.
Six might not seem like much. But then again, not every defence is like the one coach Chris Beard draws up, and demands, out of the transfers and second-choice players he started bringing to Lubbock when he arrived three seasons ago.
Nobody’s overlooking them now.
With Texas Tech leading 68-62 and less than a minute remaining, Owens swooped over to the sideline to reject Gonzaga’s NBA-bound star, Rui Hachimura, and put an exclamation point of sorts on a celebration that was just getting warmed up.
Gonzaga (33-4), which spent a good chunk of the season atop the AP Top 25, pulled within 71-69 on Zach Norvell Jr.’s putback with 11 seconds left. But Josh Perkins reached over the end line and swatted the ball out of Matt Mooney’s hand as he was inbounding for a technical.
Moretti did the honours — sinking the technical free throws, then two more after Gonzaga fouled in desperation.
Jarrett Culver led the Red Raiders with 19 points, and Mooney, a transfer from South Dakota State, had 17.
But, as usual, the biggest stats came on defence. Texas Tech held the Bulldogs’ nation-leading offence to 42 per cent shooting and forced it into 16 turnovers — nearly six more than their season average.