Tortilla Tossin’ Player of the Game: Matt Mooney, come on down because you were absolutely fantastic. Mooney was unstoppable in the second half and literally put daggers in Michigan State hearts, scoring 22 points on 8 of 16 from the floor, including 4 of 8 from the three-point line, 3 rebounds, 1 assists, 1 steal and just 1 turnover. We could probably give it to some other guys here too, but Mooney was so good.
Defender of the Game: Tariq Owens was an absolute force in the paint and he challenged everything and Norense Odiase just grabbed a ton of rebounds so they both get it. Owens had 3 blocks, Odiase had 9 boards and they were dominant.
Multi-Purpose Player of the Game: Brandone Francis, this is all you because I’m not sure who else to give it to. His drives and bravado and fearlessness are absolutely pivotal to what this team needed. Francis had 9 points on 4 of 8 from the floor, 2 boards, 2 assists, and isn’t afraid of anyone. Anyone.
- Before the game, the official site tweeted this inspirational video where the team arrived back in Lubbock. Some of speech that Chris Beard gave the team that we haven’t seen before. The emphasis is mine.
You gotta believe it in your gut and in the back of your mind. You gotta believe it. I’m not asking you to do anything you haven’t done before. The world thought you were down when they saw your draw, Buffalo, Michigan, Gonzaga. You gotta believe we can do this. It starts with each of you. And once you believe that you have to embrace this week like you never have before. We are choosing victory right now. We gotta coach well, we have to play well. We got to be teachable, we have to listen. We’re trying to get better today. We’re not going to play in the Final Four. We’re going down there to win the Final Four.
That’s it right there. This team is not satisfied, this team does not want a participation trophy. That’s not why they are playing the game.
- Let’s get to some good things first. The Texas Tech defense was unbelievable. Suffocating. The Michigan State offense was one that was actually really good, 7th in the nation before last night, and then Texas Tech happened. Michigan State could not run, something that they like to do with Winston. They only had 2 fast break points the entire game. And It looked like Michigan State was a team comprised of defensive ends playing basketball, just huge, and they lost the battle inside, scoring only 14 points in the paint compared to 18 to Texas Tech. Texas Tech did not allow Michigan State to dominate the boards and only allowed 8 offensive rebounds, and Texas Tech lost the defensive rebounds battle by 1, 28-27. That’s an overall win.
- Not only was the Texas Tech defense good in those areas, they absolutely smothered Michigan state, only allowing the Spartans to shoot 31% in the first half and 33% in the second half. The Texas Tech offense struggled as well in the first half as they were feeling their way through Michigan State, but halftime adjustments (i.e. Mooney being unbelievable) saw Texas Tech shoot 14 of 25, 56%, in the second half, including 5 of 10 from the three-point line.
- Want to know how good this TEAM is? Texas Tech beat Michigan State by double-digits with Jarrett Culver going 3 of 12 for the game, scoring only 1 point in the first half and being a non-factor offensively. The thing that won’t show up in the box score was how good Culver was defensively. His ability to help weakside on a couple of Michigan State drives (and a block to boot) and his ability to guard their point guard on switches and not allow him to score were absolutely invaluable. So Texas Tech’s absolute stud through the entire tournament was stymied, but he was never afraid to have the ball in his hands because he still wanted it. He never shrunk from the moment and he was spectacular with that dagger three-pointer with a minute remaining.
- Matt Mooney, Tariq Owens, and Orense Odiase were all so good last night. Maybe their best games in Texas Tech uniforms, perhaps not statistically, but their impact was unbelievable. Mooney’s ability to score in the second half and his confidence were so huge because Texas Tech didn’t have Culver. And Mooney thought that the basket was the ocean for his three-pointers, it was absolutely amazing. Owens is basically a plastic man, the spills he took going for the ball and the ankle sprain, but coming back from it were the stuff of legends. I don’t see how he did it, but I also don’t see how he wasn’t going to come back. Again, Owens ability to affect shots were so significant. And Odiase palying bigger minutes because of Owens absence were huge. His rebounding and screen-setting (that Edwards drive in the second half was largely because Odiase screened off the rim defender) and minutes were just unbelievable.
- I don’t want to forget anyone. Davide Moretti wasn’t really getting a ton of open looks, but he made huge three-pointer as the shot-clock was expiring and had a nice runner in the lane. Brandone Francis and Kyler Edwards were not afraid of the moment either. Francis just had this confidence about him and when he has that, he’s an inspiration. Edwards doesn’t why away either.
- After the game, Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo had this to say about Texas Tech:
First of all, I want to give a lot of credit to Texas Tech. On our National Championship rings, there’s a PPTPW — Players Play, Tough Players Win. Very seldom in my career have we kind of got out beat up, and tonight was one of those nights.
That’s some high praise.
- After the game, Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard was effusive in his praise for Michigan State, but the last question was a little bit offensive, but probably worded poorly by the reporter. I’m posting the entire exchange because it’s pretty terrific:
Q. You understand the history of Texas Tech basketball and the unlikelihood of you guys playing for the national title. I’m curious, for you guys to get to this point, did it have to be a group like this of underrecruited guys and scrappers and a team that really buys in on that sort of defense mentality?
CHRIS BEARD: Why do you think it’s unlikely?
Q. Because you guys aren’t considered a blue blood, picked seventh in the Big 12. I wouldn’t say this particular group is unlikely, but, you know, given the history that Texas Tech’s never made a Final Four before.
CHRIS BEARD: Well, I’ve only been the head coach of Texas Tech for three years. History is something you respect and study, but when you’re in athletics and you’re in competition, it’s the team at hand. Last year we lost in the Elite Eight to the eventual National Championship, Villanova, so this year I think we’re back on this stage.
I respect the question, but basketball is a team sport, you know, and you get guys believing they can do something. So Texas Tech has a great tradition. We won the Big 12 regular season championship this year. We tied it with K-State. We had some bad injuries down the stretch, or they could easily be on this stage.
I’m not sure. I respect the question, but why not us? We’ve got good players. We’ve got a great university. We play in arguably the best league in the country. We won the Big 12 regular season title. We’re a good team. We’ve got good players.
Yeah, I think we deserve to be here, as do a lot of other teams. You’ve got to get fortunate, but we did. I’m looking forward to coaching these guys on Monday night.
- This is a bad look for the reporter because from the get-go, the reporter is essentially asking that Chris Beard acknowledge that it is unlikely that Texas Tech is playing in a National Championship game and his follow-up question doesn’t necessarily make it any better, but I thought Beard was pretty terrific. Beard will always use being picked 7th in the preseason poll as motivation, and as a result an unlikely team to make it this far (in fact Texas Tech was given no credit in the AP poll, having not received any votes), but as the head coach, he absolutely believes this team is anything but unlikely. This team is destined.
- We get to do this one more time. Texas Tech plays on Monday night at 8:20 p.m. for the National Championship.
No Old Town Road tonight.
We came here to play 8️⃣0️⃣ minutes.
— Texas Tech Basketball (@TexasTechMBB) April 7, 2019
The #TwinCitiesTakeover is REAL.
4️⃣0️⃣ more minutes.
— Texas Tech Basketball (@TexasTechMBB) April 7, 2019