Texas Tech, Virginia advance to Final Four
Texas Tech, picked to finish seventh in the Big 12 this preseason, is advancing to its first Final Four in program history after upsetting No. 1 seed Gonzaga 75-69 in a thrilling Elite Eight matchup on Saturday night.
And barely. The Red Raiders led by seven points with 52 seconds remaining, but the Zags put together a quick 5-0 run over the next 30 seconds fueled by a Josh Perkins layup and 3-pointer to get within two. After two Matt Mooney free throws to extend Tech's lead to four, Gonzaga responded with a quick layup that again cut the lead to two. It would not get closer from there.
Perkins made a critical, and controversial, mistake that ultimately swung the game. He reached out of bounds during Texas Tech's inbounds play, and with Tech up 71-69, Perkins was assessed a technical. Texas Tech then tabbed Davide Moretti, who is shooting 92.1 percent from the free throw line this season, to shoot the free throws. Moretti made both to put the game on ice.
That wasn't the only controversy. Moments earlier, with Gonzaga trailing by 6, Texas Tech's Tariq Owens swatted a shot and saved it in an incredible sequence. But upon further review, Owens was clearly out of bounds before he leapt for the ball and subsequently saved it. Instead of Gonzaga getting the ball back as it should have, Gonzaga fouled seconds later. The Red Raiders added a free throw on the other end to extend their lead.
Save for controversy, the game's hype that came with a matchup between Gonzaga's No. 1 offense taking on Texas Tech's No. 1 defense lived up to the hype, and then some. There were 11 ties, 12 lead changes and Tech led for 15 minutes and 47 seconds compared to Gonzaga, which led for 15 minutes and 23 seconds. It was as evenly-matched an Elite Eight game as we've had in some time.
Gonzaga had its chances to take the lead, and its stars played tremendously. Rui Hachimura scored 22 points, Brandon Clarke added 18 and Josh Perkins scored 16, but 16 team turnovers and wasted possessions trying to navigate Texas Tech's taxing defense wore the Zags' offense attack too thin.
In the end, the Red Raiders made free throws, avoided boneheaded mistakes, and came up clutch in the crunch. Jarrett Culver led the way with 19 points, and Matt Mooney, who averages just under 11 points per game this season, added 17.
Texas Tech moves on to the Final Four next week in Minneapolis where it will face the winner of No. 1 seed Duke vs. No. 2 seed Michigan State, which will be played on Sunday afternoon.
No. 1 seed Virginia is dancing its way into the Final Four for the first time since 1984 after defeating No. 3 seed Purdue 80-75 in overtime on Saturday night.
And how's this for a redemption story: Virginia's inclusion into the final grouping comes a year removed from its stunning, heartbreaking and embarrassing first-round exit to UMBC when it became the first No. 1 seed in NCAA Tournament history to fall to a No. 16 seed.
"We made bad history last year," Cavaliers guard Kyle Guy said, who after a sluggish start exploded for a tournament-high 25 points. "We're making great history this year."
Guy had four points going into halftime and rolled his ankle just before the first half came to a close. But in a wizard-like turnaround, Guy shook loose of the slump that has followed him since the start of the tournament. He opened the second half by making four consecutive 3-pointers and scored 19 of his 25 in the second half, with the remaining two coming via clutch free throws to seal the game late.
It was almost all for not, however. Purdue took three-point lead in the final moments before fouling intentionally to avoid a 3-point shot from Virginia. After Ty Jerome made the first, he intentionally missed the second and the ball was tipped over the half-court line. Kihei Clark secured it and found Mamadi Diakite, who buried a mid-range jumper as time expired to send the game to overtime.
The star of this game, however, was on the losing end of things. Purdue's Carsen Edwards nearly willed his team to a win with a March moment not soon to be forgotten. He scored 42 points, tied for a career-high he set earlier this week, and came up one 3-pointer shy of an NCAA Tournament record (10 of 19). Six of his triples came in the final 14 minutes of the second half.
Virginia will face the winner of Sunday afternoon's matchup No. 2 seed Kentucky and No. 5 seed Auburn.