Sunday, May 28

Texas Tech basketball: Gritty win leads Red Raiders to Sweet 16

After a season of struggles at the free-throw line, the Texas Tech  basketball team came through in the clutch beating Norte Dame 59-52 to advance to the Sweet 16 thanks to exquisite work at the charity stripe.  Making all ten of their free throws in the final 3:30 of the game, Tech was able to overcome a late deficit despite yet another of the late-game field-goal droughts that have plagued Mark Adams’ squad throughout this season.  And it was the most unlikely of players who hit the game’s biggest foul shots.

Just a 46% free-throw shooter, senior Marcus Santos-Silva hit a pair of attempts with just 0:55 remaining to give his team a 55-52 edge.  Shooting with his right hand, the natural lefty came through at the line just seconds after Kevin Obanor drained a pair of free-throws himself to put Tech in the lead by a point.  What’s more, Santos-Silva’s clutch shots came as a result of a stellar defensive play that saw him come across the lane and block a driving layup attempt by the Irish’s Blake Wesley.

As a team, Tech would go 13-14 at the line in the second 20 minutes after missing all three of their attempts in the first half.  And given how poorly the Red Raiders shot the ball on the night, they needed every point they could get at the line.

Just one game after shooting 66.7% as a team in a round-one win over No. 14 seed Montana State, Tech was just 21-59 (35.6%) from the floor and 4-15 (26.7%) from beyond the 3-point arc.

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For what it’s worth, the 11th seeded Irish were not any better shooting 32.7% overall from the field.  But nine three-point buckets (though on 28 attempts) would help keep ND in the game.  In fact, head coach Mike Brey’s team would make one more 3-pointer than they would 2-pointer in the contest.

The game was a rock fight from the get-go with both teams playing relentless defense, albeit using vastly different schemes.  While Tech’s patented no-middle, switch-everything defense kept the Irish out of the paint and held them to just 10 points in the lane, Norte Dame relied heavily on a 2-3 zone to force the Red Raiders to try to make shots from the perimeter.  Still, Tech was able to get the ball inside enough to hold a 14-point edge in scoring in the lane.

Leading Tech by doing the dirty work all night, Obanor paced Tech in scoring with 15 points and rebounding with 15 boards.  Meanwhile, both Bryson Williams and Kevin McCullar Jr. added 14 points as the only other Red Raiders in double-digits.

Meanwhile, after scoring just three points in round one of the tournament, Dane Goodwin led the Irish with 14 points of his own.  He was 5-8 from the field including 3-5 from 3-point range.  And at times in the second half, it appeared as if the junior from Ohio was determined to shoot his team to the win.

But the Red Raider defense would stiffen down the stretch.  After seeing the Irish take a 52-49 lead at the 2:09 mark of the second half, Tech would hold the Irish to 0-4 shooting to close the game while forcing a pair of turnovers.

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At the same time, the Red Raiders would toe the line and convert on their opportunities.  That’s what good teams do in March. And it’s why Texas Tech is still dancing.

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