Texas Tech is back in the Elite Eight for the second straight season after Jarrett Culver went off for 22 points, Davide Moretti added 15 more and Tariq Owens had 10 rebounds to help lead the No. 3-seeded Red Raiders to a 63-44 win over No. 2 Michigan in the Sweet 16 on Thursday at the Honda Center.
“I want to congratulate Michigan on a great season,” Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard said. “I’m just really pleased and happy for our players to advance. We came to Anaheim to play 80 minutes, so we’re halfway there. But the top of our list of why I’m so happy for our guys is I think we just beat one of the best teams we’ve played all year. We guarded at a high level, played team basketball and played eight guys in the rotation and everybody made rotations.”
Tech (29-6) led 24-16 at halftime and poured it on with a 12-2 run to start the second half against the Wolverines (30-7) who were limited to 32.7 percent shooting in the game, including going 1-for-19 on 3-pointers. The team committed only eight turnovers in the win and forced 14. The Red Raiders and Bulldogs will meet in the Elite Eight at 5:09 p.m. (CST) on Saturday with the winner advancing to the NCAA Final Four next week in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Tech is 2-0 all-time against Gonzaga with neutral-court wins in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2005 and before a preseason Alaska tournament in 2007.
Culver finished with a game-high 22 points after going 9-for-19 from the field and also added four assists, while Matt Mooney hit two 3-pointers and finished with 10 points. Moretti, who had not made a 3 in the past two games after a 21-game streak with at least one, led the Red Raiders with three in the game on four attempts. He would also go 2-for-2 from the free-throw line and is now 93-for-101 (92.1 percent) on the season. Defensively, Tech limited Michigan to a season-low in points and held them to 5.3 percent on 3-pointers. The Red Raiders have now held seven opponents under 50 points this season and 17 opponents to 35 percent shooting or below.
“I feel like we stayed true to ourselves,” Culver said. “We played the defense we’ve been playing all year and their shots wasn’t going in. We had urgency. We knew they had great players that could shoot the ball pretty well. So urgency and staying true to our defense.”
Texas Tech was held to 35.7 percent shooting in the first half, but would explode in the second half by shooting 51.9 percent from the field and was also 7-for-8 at the free-throw line. The Red Raiders finished the game with 12 assists as a team, including four each from Moretti and Culver.
“I thought we shared the ball more,” Beard said. Half of our baskets tonight were assisted. That’s always the objective. I thought we trusted each other, ball got moving better the second half and the shooting is always going to be the law, you put in the time, shots are going to go down. We were fortunate tonight. Michigan didn’t shoot the ball well. But you have to give our guys credit. I love the way we were sharing the ball, getting assists, and we had nice balance. Several guys stepped up and made shots.”
Tech finished the game with six 3-pointers with freshman Kyler Edwards making one, while senior Norense Odiase contributed four rebounds and Brandone Francis added four points. Owens, who did not have a blocked shot in the win over Buffalo on Sunday, now has at least one in 34 of 35 games after having two on Thursday against Michigan. He now has five games with double-digit rebounds and is up to 85 blocks on the season.
“They have a really good team and they have some really good shooters,” said Owens of Michigan. “For our game plan we knew we had to have a lot of urgency in getting out there because they’re a really good team.”
The Red Raiders took their first double-digit lead of the game at 26-16 coming out of halftime with Mooney hitting a jumper in the lane and pushed it to 13 with Moretti hitting his second 3-pointer of the game on the next possession. A huge alley-oop dunk by Owens off a pass from Moretti was followed by a 3-pointer by Moretti to give the Red Raiders a 34-18 lead with 17 minutes to play. The score was doubled-up at 36-18 when Owen threw down a one-handed dunk off an assist to give the Red Raiders a 7-0 run that had pushed an eight-point lead to 18 in the first four minutes of the half.
Culver would assert his dominance midway through the second half by going on a 9-2 run of his own that gave the Red Raiders a 50-29 lead with 9:41 remaining before Francis hit a layup that pushed the lead to 23 a minute later. After Michigan basket, Mooney drilled a 3-pointer to give the Red Raiders a 25-point lead with eight on the clock. Texas Tech led 24-16 at halftime after limiting the Wolverines to 7-for-25 shooting, including going 0-for-9 on 3-pointers in the half. Culver led the Red Raiders with eight points at halftime and also had two assists and two rebounds, while Moretti had seven points with one 3-pointer. Tech was limited to 10-for-28 shooting in the half and were only 2-for-8 from beyond the arc against the Wolverine defense. Mooney hit the opening shot of the game before Tech missed its next seven, but were up 6-4 with 13 minutes remaining in the half after a Culver layup.
The 16 points were a season-low at halftime for Michigan and were the second fewest points allowed by the Red Raiders who had limited Northwestern State to only 10 earlier this season at home. After 20 minutes of play, the Wolverines had a 19-18 rebounding advantage and had a 14-12 advantage in the paint. Corprew, Owens and Odiase had four rebounds each for Tech, while Moretti was leading the team with three assists going into the break. The largest lead of the half was the eight-point halftime margin after Culver made a layup with 18 seconds remaining in the half.
Gonzaga advanced with a 72-58 win over No. 4 Florida State in the first game of the day in Anaheim with Rui Hachimura leading the way with 17 points, while Brandon Clarke had a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds in the game. The Bulldogs will be making their fourth Elite Eight appearance and third since 2015.
“I’ve seen Gonzaga as much as anybody, just as a fan,” Beard said. “I mentioned this yesterday we show our team clips of winning basketball. We show a lot of Gonzaga clips. Their passion, their togetherness, their courage, thousand aggressive they are, at this point I’m a fan and here in the next hour or so I’ve got to flip that and start to get ready to try to prepare against them. I can say this early on no one has more respect for Gonzaga than I do personally and our program.”