Texas Tech knocks off top-seeded Gonzaga, reaches first-ever Final Four

For the first time in the 94-year history of Texas Tech basketball, the Red Raiders are heading to the Final Four.

Tech knocked off top-seeded Gonzaga Saturday in the Elite Eight, booking its trip to Minneapolis with a 75-69 victory.

The third-seeded Red Raiders closed the game with grit and fire, locking up the nation’s best offense down the stretch. Tariq Owens’ incredible block on Rui Hachimura was emblematic of their effort:

They almost coughed up a seven-point advantage late. Two consecutive turnovers by Davide Moretti gave Gonzaga life. Josh Perkins hit a clutch 3-pointer to cut the lead to two, giving the game the tense finish the first 39 minutes merited.

But Matt Mooney knocked down two clutch free throws. And with the lead back down to two after a Bulldogs bucket, Josh Perkins reached out of bounds and fouled a Texas Tech player before he could inbound the ball – by rule, a two-shot technical foul. Moretti swished both free throws to put Tech up four, and all but send his team to the Final Four.

A high-level, 40-minute battle

The game was everything we would want from a late-tournament game and more. It was unyielding defense matched by shot-making. Basketball intelligence. Lead changes. Chess masters. Lottery picks. Athletes. Drama.

Gonzaga’s frontcourt duo were excellent. Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke did almost everything one can do on a basketball floor. They ran fast breaks and crashed the boards. They drilled foul-line jumpers and threw down dunks. Even against the length of Tariq Owens, they showed their mettle.

Tech, though, showed its – and not just on the defensive end. Its constant movement on the offensive end made Gonzaga work. And its timely shooting ensured the Zags couldn’t afford to relax.

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ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 28: Tariq Owens #11 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders celebrates after a dunk against the Michigan Wolverines during the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament West Regional at Honda Center on March 28, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY - MARCH 28: Carsen Edwards #3 of the Purdue Boilermakers goes up for a layup against Admiral Schofield #5 of the Tennessee Volunteers during overtime of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at the KFC YUM! Center on March 28, 2019 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY - MARCH 28: Mamadi Diakite #25 of the Virginia Cavaliers gets in a scuffle with Ehab Amin #4 of the Oregon Ducks during the second half of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at the KFC YUM! Center on March 28, 2019 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 28: Rui Hachimura #21 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs dunks the ball against Mfiondu Kabengele #25 of the Florida State Seminoles during the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament West Regional at Honda Center on March 28, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Purdue center Matt Haarms celebrates during overtime of a men's NCAA Tournament college basketball South Regional semifinal game against Tennessee Thursday, March 28, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. Purdue won 99-94. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
Michigan guard Charles Matthews, left, and guard Jordan Poole leave the court after the team's loss to Texas Tech during an NCAA men's college basketball tournament West Region semifinal Thursday, March 28, 2019, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Texas Tech forward Deshawn Corprew, middle, reaches for a loose ball between Michigan guard Zavier Simpson, left, and guard Charles Matthews during the first half an NCAA men's college basketball tournament West Region semifinal Thursday, March 28, 2019, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Florida State guard Trent Forrest, left, blocks a shot by Gonzaga guard Zach Norvell Jr. during the second half an NCAA men's college basketball tournament West Region semifinal Thursday, March 28, 2019, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Purdue's Ryan Cline (14) and Carsen Edwards celebrate after defeating Tennessee 99-94 in overtime of a men's NCAA Tournament college basketball South Regional semifinal game Thursday, March 28, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Michigan State forward Xavier Tillman (23) beats out LSU forward Darius Days (22) for the loose ball during the first half of an East Regional semifinal in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Friday, March 29, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Auburn's Chuma Okeke yells out in pain after being injured during the second half of a men's NCAA tournament college basketball Midwest Regional semifinal game against North Carolina Friday, March 29, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
North Carolina's Seventh Woods, left, and Kenny Williams pause near the end of a men's NCAA tournament college basketball Midwest Regional semifinal game against Auburn Friday, March 29, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Michigan State forward Gabe Brown (13) and teammates react after he scored against LSU guard Marlon Taylor (14) during the second half of a semifinal in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament East Region in Washington, Friday, March 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Auburn's Anfernee McLemore celebrates at the end of the first half of a men's NCAA tournament college basketball Midwest Regional semifinal game against North Carolina Friday, March 29, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Auburn's Chuma Okeke (5) grabs his leg as he loses control of the ball on his way to the basket as North Carolina's Cameron Johnson (13) and North Carolina's Brandon Robinson, left, defend during the second half of a men's NCAA tournament college basketball Midwest Regional semifinal game Friday, March 29, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. Okeke was injured on the play. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Auburn's Danjel Purifoy (3) and Austin Wiley (50) celebrate near the end of a men's NCAA tournament college basketball Midwest Regional semifinal game against North Carolina Friday, March 29, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 29: Ahmed Hill #13 of the Virginia Tech Hokies reacts after missing a layup against the Duke Blue Devils late in the second half in the East Regional game of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Capital One Arena on March 29, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 29: Ahmed Hill #13 of the Virginia Tech Hokies reacts after missing a layup against the Duke Blue Devils late in the second half in the East Regional game of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Capital One Arena on March 29, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - MARCH 29: Anfernee McLemore #24 of the Auburn Tigers celebrates against the North Carolina Tar Heels during the 2019 NCAA Basketball Tournament Midwest Regional at Sprint Center on March 29, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - MARCH 29: Brandon Robinson #4 of the North Carolina Tar Heels reacts after being defeated by the Auburn Tigers 97-80 during the 2019 NCAA Basketball Tournament Midwest Regional at Sprint Center on March 29, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - MARCH 29: Brandon Robinson #4 of the North Carolina Tar Heels reacts against the Auburn Tigers during the 2019 NCAA Basketball Tournament Midwest Regional at Sprint Center on March 29, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Duke guard Tre Jones (3) reacts after scoring against Virginia Tech during the second half of an NCAA men's college basketball tournament East Region semifinal in Washington, Friday, March 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Kentucky's Immanuel Quickley celebrates as time expires in a men's NCAA tournament college basketball Midwest Regional semifinal game against Houston Friday, March 29, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Virginia Tech guard Ahmed Hill (13) celebrates after scoring, next to Duke forward Zion Williamson (1) during the first half of an NCAA men's college basketball tournament East Region semifinal in Washington, Friday, March 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Auburn's Danjel Purifoy (3) and Austin Wiley (50) celebrate near the end of a men's NCAA tournament college basketball Midwest Regional semifinal game against North Carolina Friday, March 29, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Houston's Galen Robinson Jr. (25) walks off the court as Kentucky celebrates in the background following a men's NCAA tournament college basketball Midwest Regional semifinal game Friday, March 29, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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Because they certainly couldn’t lose an ounce of focus with the ball in their hands. Texas Tech was incessantly active. The Red Raiders forced 16 turnovers. They disrupted almost everything the West region’s top seed wanted to do. Zach Norvell and Corey Kispert, Gonzaga’s premier 3-point marksmen, were held to a combined 10 points – all from Norvell.

In crunch time, the game got intensely physical – almost too physical for the refs to call every foul. Their leniency was advantage Texas Tech – the instigators of the physicality. Clarke and Hachimura would get mauled as they tried to bulldoze their way to the rim. Whistles, though, were silent. Gonzaga only scored one field goal between the 8:49 and 1:33 marks of the second half – and three over a more than 12-minute span. And it didn’t reach the bonus until under two minutes. Mark Few and Zags fans will likely be livid with the refereeing.

But this is a victory, and a big-picture accomplishment, that Texas Tech fully deserved.

That Gonzaga was the favorite, with superior skill, says a lot about what Few has done with the program over the past two decades. It is nothing short of extraordinary.

But that Texas Tech could match the Zags with a St. John’s transfer, a three-star hometown kid, an Italian, a graduate student at his third university, and an entire cast devoid of hype was equally, if not more, remarkable. No coach in college basketball has been more impressive than Chris Beard over the past two years.

And now, one year after leading Texas Tech to its first ever Elite Eight – and a year after losing five of his top six scorers – Beard and the Red Raiders are off to their first-ever Final Four.

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