Texas Tech downs Gon­zaga to reach first Fi­nal Four

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Sports - BY ED­DIE PELLS

Texas Tech is head­ing to its first Fi­nal Four thanks to a kid from Italy who made the big shots and a de­fense that re­fuses to rest.

Da­vide Moretti opened up a late lead with the two most im­por­tant 3-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 over 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 4 min­utes.

The first of them – a spot-up 3-pointer from the side of the arc – gave third-seeded Texas Tech (30-6) a five-point lead, its largest to that point, with 3:49 re­main­ing. The se­cond came with 1:50 left and pushed the ad­van­tage to six.

Six might not seem like much. But then again, not ev­ery de­fense is like the one coach Chris Beard draws up, and de­mands, out of the trans­fers and sec­ond­choice play­ers he started bring­ing to Lub­bock when he ar­rived three sea­sons ago.

No­body’s over­look­ing them now.

“It’s real. That de­fense is

real,” Gon­zaga coach Mark Few said. “It im­pacted us tonight. They took a lot of balls tonight.”

Texas Tech had nine steals among 16 turnovers by Gon­zaga.

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 tipped the ball out of Matt Mooney’s hand as he was in­bound­ing for a tech­ni­cal.

Moretti did the hon­ors – sink­ing the tech­ni­cal free throws – and then made two more af­ter Gon­zaga fouled in des­per­a­tion.

Jar­rett Cul­ver, an NBA prospect who chose his home­town col­lege over sev­eral other suit­ors, led the Red Raiders with 19 points. Mooney, a trans­fer from South Dakota State, had 17.

But, as usual, the big­gest stats came on de­fense. Texas Tech held the Bull­dogs’ na­tion­lead­ing of­fense to 42 per­cent shoot­ing and nearly six more turnovers than their sea­son av­er­age. This was only the fourth time Gon­zaga was held un­der 70 this sea­son.

“I think I turned the ball over five times in the first half,” Gon­zaga for­ward Bran­don Clarke said. “It’s some­thing I’ve never done.”

Bot­tom line, Texas Tech gives teams very lit­tle room to breathe.

And though Gon­zaga was the only team to beat Duke and Zion Wil­liamson at full strength this sea­son, there will be no re­match.

This was a tight, backand-forth game. Nei­ther team led by more than five for the first 38:10, un­til Moretti spot­ted up for one of the most open looks of the game for ei­ther team.

MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ AP

Texas Tech cel­e­brates af­ter a win against Gon­zaga in the West Re­gional fi­nal of the NCAA Tour­na­ment on Satur­day in Anaheim. Texas Tech won 75-69 to earn its first trip to the Fi­nal Four.

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