This one was for the books folks. The Texas Tech Red Raiders have made their statement by defeating Michigan State, 61-51, and advancing to the National Championship for the first time in program history. They held the Spartans throughout the game with stellar defense against a team that was no slouch on either side of the ball.
Forced turnovers and steals were the name of the game for Texas Tech throughout the competitive play as they dominated on defense and did not allow any easy buckets for the Spartans. The Red Raiders finished with 4 steals and 10 forced turnovers.
At the start of the game, it was back and forth as no one could find the basket. Both teams put on strong defensive displays to hold the game to single digits for the first 7 minutes of the game.
It was Kyler Edwards that made the big time three-pointer to give Texas Tech the rhythm it needed. However, Michigan State did not let up in the first quarter as Cassius Winston, Big 10 player of the Year, took back the lead, 16-11.
Tariq Ownes was the definition of hustle in the first half with some amazing plays for Texas Tech as he continued to save the ball possession after possession. He even forced the tomahawk down low for a big-time play by the Red Raiders.
It was Matt Mooney who broke Tech’s dry spell by hitting a big time three-pointer to make it a two-point game. But he didn’t stop there. Mooney took the lead as he pumped faked into a foul to give the Red Raiders the lead.
Brandone Francis, Davide Moretti and Edwards all played with a fire in the first quarter to make up for the lack of offensive power by Jarrett Culver.
The first quarter had such a defensive presence that the score didn’t even hit 30 as the half ended with Texas Tech maintaining the lead, 23-21.
With a close game on the line, Owens took a nasty landing, which looked like he twisted his ankle. However, he came back from the locker room looking as if he never took an injury and was put back in the lineup for the Red Raiders.
It was all Mooney, or money as I should say, from the second half. With the help from Edwards as well, the dynamic pair continued to hit shot after shot for the Red Raiders. Mooney even hit back-to-back three’s to put Texas Tech ahead, 45-33, giving the Red Raiders the biggest lead of the game.
MATT. MOONEY.— Texas Tech Basketball (@TexasTechMBB) April 7, 2019
ALL THE WAY FROM ST. PAUL. pic.twitter.com/mrT4pISHAY
Winston started to put the pressure on as he continued to make shots and force the foul in the paint for the Spartans. However, Mooney would just not let up as he took his time and took the smart shot to put the Red Raiders up even further, 52-43.
With five minutes left, it looked as if no one could hit a shot as Tech held the lead by five points. Both teams stumbled up in a three-minute dry spell as the clock winded down in the last game of the Final Four round.
Michigan State came back and closed in to make it a one point game with 2 minutes remaining in the game with the hopes of a National Championship appearance on the line. In the end, the best team came out with the win, and that was the Texas Tech Red Raiders.
Player of the game: Matt Mooney
Like I stated before, its Mooney Money. He led the team with 22 points and shot 50% from three-point range. This guy can play, and if he hadn’t stated that in previous games this season, he sure did against Michigan State. At one point he just couldn’t miss sinking back-to-back three’s and jump shots that fell in effortlessly.
With Culver being extremely cold against Michigan State, Mooney took the call to action and stepped up. All of us Red Raider fans knew he had that spark in him, and he showed glimpses in previous match ups, but this was different. This was special. He was definitely the key component to the Red Raiders win and they will definitely need his spark to continue in the National Championship.
Now its on to the next for Texas Tech as the team will face a very strong offensive team in Virginia. The outcome is unknown, but all I know is go Tech!