Matt Mooney has Texas Tech on the brink of its first men's basketball national championship after a 61-51 Final Four win over Michigan State.
The guard was the surprise hero for the Red Raiders on Saturday, as he finished with 22 points at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Jarrett Culver struggled for much of the night but scored eight of his 10 points in the final three minutes to help seal the game for the No. 3 seed.
Despite facing numerous programs with more past success in the NCAA tournament, Texas Tech continues to keep its dream run alive.
Michigan State's season ended in the national semifinals despite 16 points from Cassius Winston.
It was an ugly game throughout, as defenses ruled the day. The offenses especially struggled out of the gates. The teams combined to shoot just 30.6 percent from the field in a low-scoring first half. There was just seven combined points (and two field goals) over the final seven minutes before intermission.
Texas Tech was likely especially disappointed, considering it got no production out of its best player:
The team was fortunate to get help from role players, though—especially from Tariq Owens on both ends:
The center had seven points, four rebounds and three blocks before he suffered an ankle injury in the second half.
Matt McQuaid shouldered much of the load for Michigan State on the other end, scoring nine quick points to keep his team in the game.
These weren't the big names we were expecting to see make a difference, but neither team took much of an advantage before the half ended with a 23-21 Texas Tech lead.
The Red Raiders continued to play well in the second half despite Owens' injury and Culver in foul trouble.
The key was the defense, which left few openings for Michigan State:
The Spartans shot 31.9 percent from the field and had 11 turnovers with just six assists.
Mooney took over on the offensive end, making big shots from all over the court:
The grad transfer finished 8-of-16 from the field and 4-of-8 from three-point range—hitting at least twice as many field goals as anyone else on the court for either team.
Michigan State slowly crawled back into the game by getting to the free-throw line, scoring six straight points at the charity stripe as part of an 8-0 run to cut the deficit to one.
However, this is where Culver came up big with a personal 6-0 run to give the Red Raiders some breathing room.
Although he went 3-of-12 from the field, he came through when needed.
Texas Tech ended up scoring the final nine points to close out the hard-fought win.
The team will now take on Virginia for the national championship Monday in what will likely be a defensive struggle.