Analysis: Texas Tech rides defense, Mooney to title game

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Texas Tech did its defensive thing all night. Matt Mooney was money in the second half.

Now the Red Raiders are riding into their first national championship game.

Mooney scored 13 of his 22 points in the second half and Texas Tech clamped down on Michigan State all Saturday night in a 61-51 victory that sends the Red Raiders into Monday’s title game against Virginia.

The Red Raiders (31-6) traded body blows with the Spartans in a first half that lived up to its defensive-dominated billing on the gritty side of the Final Four.

The Red Raiders started finding seams in the Spartans’ defense in the second half and Mooney found his stroke, hitting three straight 3-pointers to put them up 12.

But Michigan State (32-7) has Tom Izzo on its sideline, so the Spartans started cutting off those driving lanes and getting out on Mooney.

The Spartans couldn’t make any shots against Texas Tech’s pack-it-in defense, but kept themselves in it with free throws, using a 13-2 run to pull within 52-51 with three minutes left.

Then it was Jarrett Culver’s turn. He was nearly nonexistent offensively in the first half, but came to life with Michigan State paying so much more attention to Mooney.

The sophomore shooting guard came alive when the Red Raiders needed him most, scoring 6 straight points to keep the Spartans at bay.

Already in uncharted territory, now the Red Raiders are one win away from their first national championship.

They knew there would be some bumps and bruises to get past the Spartans.

The Red Raiders like to think of themselves as street dogs and have played like they’ve been cornered since the bracket started, turning every game, every possession into a fight for oxygen.

Of course, they were facing one of the masters of March stinginess, Izzo.

The Spartans epitomize Big Ten brutality, bumping and bashing opponents into submission.

The game between the defensive dictators lived up to its billing early.

The Red Raiders hang their cowboy hat on forcing the ball away from the middle and the Spartans found no room to operate, making 7 of 23 shots in the first half.

The Spartans’ punish-you-inside approach worked, too. The Red Raiders shot 8 of 26 and Culver missed all six of his shots with the Spartans shadowing his every move.

Texas Tech led the rock fight for a spot in the title game 23-21 at halftime.

The Red Raiders made an adjustment in the second half, finding holes in Michigan State’s defense driving to the basket. Texas Tech scored on a few of those layups and that started to open up the perimeter.

Mooney took advantage, hitting three straight 3-pointers to put the Red Raiders up 48-35 midway through the second half.

It got tighter than Texas Tech would have liked — Michigan State’s defense will do that to a team — but Culver came to life at just the right time.

Coming Monday: a defensive showdown for the ages.