Jarrett Culver's late flourish sends Texas Tech to national title game

Held without a field goal for the first three quarters of Texas Tech’s first Final Four game in program history, Jarrett Culver rediscovered his shooting stroke just in time.

The future lottery pick scored seven points in the final two-plus minutes, helping Texas Tech stifle Michigan State’s late comeback and emerge with a 61-51 victory.

Michigan State had trimmed a 13-point second-half deficit to one with less than three minutes remaining when Culver finally responded. His short jumper pushed Texas Tech’s lead back to three and paved the way for an even bigger shot two possessions later.

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The best photos and moments from March Madness 2019
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The best photos and moments from March Madness 2019
Buffalo's Jeremy Harris chases after a loose ball during the second half of a first round men's college basketball game against Arizona State in the NCAA Tournament Friday, March 22, 2019, in Tulsa, Okla. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Wisconsin guard D'Mitrik Trice, bottom, holds onto the ball under Oregon guard Ehab Amin during the first half of a first-round game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament, Friday, March 22, 2019, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Buffalo's Dontay Caruthers celebrates a teammates basket during the first half of a first round men's college basketball game against Arizona State in the NCAA Tournament Friday, March 22, 2019, in Tulsa, Okla. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
DES MOINES, IOWA - MARCH 21: Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans glares at Aaron Henry #11 after a play during their game in the First Round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament against the Bradley Braves at Wells Fargo Arena on March 21, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH - MARCH 21: Jared Harper #1 of the Auburn Tigers falls after driving to the basket during the first half against the New Mexico State Aggies in the first round of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Vivint Smart Home Arena on March 21, 2019 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kansas State guard Shaun Neal-Williams (1) loses the ball between UC Irvine guard Spencer Rivers, left, and guard Evan Leonard during the first half of a first round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament Friday, March 22, 2019, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Michigan State forward Xavier Tillman (23) grabs a rebound over Bradley guard Ja'Shon Henry (22) during a first round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament, Thursday, March 21, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Belmont 's Dylan Windler, center, goes to the basket between Maryland 's Bruno Fernando, left, and Darryl Morsell (11) during the second half of the first round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament in Jacksonville, Fla. Thursday, March 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
Wisconsin guard Khalil Iverson, left, shoots against Oregon forward Paul White during the first half of a first round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament, Friday, March 22, 2019, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Houston's DeJon Jarreau dunks the ball during the first half of a first round men's college basketball game against Georgia State in the NCAA Tournament Friday, March 22, 2019, in Tulsa, Okla. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Mississippi State guard Lamar Peters watches during the second half of the team's game against Liberty in the first round of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Friday, March 22, 2019, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
LSU players celebrate after defeating Maryland 69-67 in a second-round game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament in Jacksonville, Fla., Saturday, March 23, 2019. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Gonzaga's Josh Perkins (13) reaches for Corey Kispert (24) after Kispert's 3-pointer against Baylor during the second half of a second-round game in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Saturday, March 23, 2019, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Gonzaga forward Corey Kispert, left, looks to pass as Baylor guard Mario Kegler defends during the second half of a second-round game in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Saturday, March 23, 2019, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Jeff Swinger)
Texas Tech's Jarrett Culver (23) shoots past Buffalo's Nick Perkins (33) during the second half of a second round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament Sunday, March 24, 2019, in Tulsa, Okla. Texas Tech won 78-58. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Oregon forward Louis King celebrates after scoring against UC Irvine during the second half of a second-round game in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Sunday, March 24, 2019, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
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)
LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY - MARCH 28: Matt Haarms #32 of the Purdue Boilermakers reacts against the Tennessee Volunteers 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 Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Texas guard Matt Coleman III (2) screams after taking a charge by a Colorado player during an NCAA college basketball game in the quarterfinals of the NIT on Wednesday, March 27, 2019, in Austin, Texas. (Nick Wagner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)
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)
ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 30: Brandon Clarke #15 and Rui Hachimura #21 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs compete for the ball against Norense Odiase #32 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders during the first half of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament West Regional at Honda Center on March 30, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Texas Tech forward Tariq Owens celebrates after scoring against Michigan during the second half an NCAA men's college basketball tournament West Region semifinal Thursday, March 28, 2019, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
Gonzaga forward Rui Hachimura scores against Texas Tech during the first half of a men's NCAA Tournament college basketball West Regional final game Saturday, March 30, 2019, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Virginia's De'Andre Hunter dribbles past Purdue's Grady Eifert (24) during the first half of the men's NCAA Tournament college basketball South Regional final game, Saturday, March 30, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Purdue's Trevion Williams (50) puts up a shot against Virginia's Jack Salt (33) during the second half of the men's NCAA Tournament college basketball South Regional final game, Saturday, March 30, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Virginia's Mamadi Diakite, center, reacts with teammates Kyle Guy and Jack Salt (33) after hitting a shot to send the game into overtime in the men's NCAA Tournament college basketball South Regional final game against Purdue, Saturday, March 30, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Auburn's Anfernee McLemore (24) and Kentucky's Reid Travis (22) reach for a rebound during the first half of the Midwest Regional final game in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Sunday, March 31, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Auburn's Jared Harper, left, drives to the basket past Kentucky's Reid Travis during the first half of the Midwest Regional final game in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Sunday, March 31, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 31: Tre Jones #3 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts after his teams 68-67 loss to the Michigan State Spartans in the East Regional game of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Capital One Arena on March 31, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Michigan State guard Cassius Winston, right, celebrates with teammates Matt McQuaid (20), Nick Ward (44) and Gabe Brown (13) after defeating Duke in an NCAA men's East Regional final college basketball game in Washington, Sunday, March 31, 2019. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 31: Zion Williamson #1 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts in the locker room after his teams 68-67 loss to the Michigan State Spartans in the East Regional game of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Capital One Arena on March 31, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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With Texas Tech leading by four and just over one minute remaining, Culver got Michigan State defensive ace Matt McQuaid on his heels, pulled up and buried a top-of-the-key 3-pointer. Suddenly, the Red Raiders’ lead was seven again and they could start looking ahead toward a defensive showdown with Virginia in Monday night’s national title game.

That Texas Tech is one victory away from a national championship is unfathomable given the program’s thoroughly unremarkable history.

Before Chris Beard arrived in 2016, Texas Tech had won only eight games in the NCAA tournament in program history and had never advanced past the Sweet 16. The Red Raiders have won eight in the past two years alone under Beard, advancing to the Elite Eight last season before toppling the likes of Michigan, Gonzaga and Michigan State this spring.

What makes that two-year stretch all the more impressive is that Beard has won with two very different rosters. Six of Texas Tech’s top eight players from last year either exhausted their eligibility or left for the NBA including All-American guard Keenan Evans and surprise one-and-done Zhaire Smith.

Rather than accept that this would be a rebuilding year, Beard reloaded by adding a pair of key graduate transfers. Tariq Owens and Matt Mooney carried the Red Raiders on Saturday night while Culver was struggling with his shot.

Owens was the anchor of a defense that held Michigan State to 21 first-half points, blocking three shots and altering others until a scary right ankle injury briefly forced him to the locker room with 14 minutes left in the second half. It was then that Mooney caught fire, delivering nine of his game-high 22 points on back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers to help Texas Tech open a 48-35 second-half lead.

Michigan State’s unwillingness to fold is a testament to the Spartans’ desire to get head coach Tom Izzo the career-validating second national title he craves. Eight times Izzo has taken Michigan State to the Final Four, but only twice has he advanced to the championship game.

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