FOX 17/Associated Press:
MINNEAPOLIS, MN. — Texas Tech is heading to the NCAA Tournament’s national-championship game, after beating MSU in the semifinals Saturday night, 61-51.
The Red Raiders will play Virginia in the title game at 9:18 p.m. Monday, in Minneapolis. Virginia held off Auburn in the other semifinal Saturday, 63-62.
Michigan State dug itself a fairly large hole in the second half, but climbed back to within one point with less than three minutes to go in the game. But Texas Tech was up to the task.
Leading scorer Jarrett Culver was quiet for much of the night, but he scored six straight points to keep the Red Raiders in control after the Spartans had cut a 13-point deficit to 52-51 with 2:54 left.
Texas Tech shot 56 percent after halftime, while its trademark defensive edge locked down on Michigan State. The Spartans shot just 32 percent, including 8 of 24 in the second half.
Matt Mooney finished with 22 points for the Red Raiders, and Brandone Francis added nine.
For the Spartans, Cassius Winton was the top scored, with 16 points. Matt McQuaid contributed 12 points and Aaron Henry added 11. Kenny Goins pulled down eight rebounds for MSU. Former Grand Rapids Christian star Xavier Tillman scored seven points and grabbed eight rebounds.
For those who thought Texas Tech only plays defense, it’s time to meet Matt Mooney.
While the Red Raiders were locking down Michigan State on one end, the graduate transfer shooting guard was raining in 3s on the other, lifting Tech one win away from the title Saturday night with a 61-51 victory over the Spartans in the Final Four.
Mooney matched his season-high with 22 points, including three 3-pointers over the span of 3 minutes to give Texas Tech a 13-point lead midway through the second half that, under these circumstances, was too much to overcome.
Mooney’s first two shots in the stretch capped a 5-for-5 hot streak by Texas Tech that stood as the game’s only true blast of offense.
Texas Tech took a 23-21 lead at the half. Matt McQuaid was hot early on for MSU, scoring nine quick points on three-of-five shooting from the field. But late in the first, the Spartans missed 12 consecutive shots as they struggled to work the ball down low to their “bigs” near the basket. They went 6:33 without scoring, before Cassius Winston connected in the final minute.
McQuaid and Winston finished the half with nine points apiece for MSU. Matt Mooney scored nine first-half points for the Red Raiders. Kenny Goins and Xavier Tillman had four rebounds apiece for the Spartans.
It would have been State’s first appearance in the title game since 2009, and the Spartans would be going for their third national title since the basketball program’s inception in 1898.
Despite the loss, the crowd at Cedar Village in East Lansing was quite vocal.