NCAA Tournament Recap: Elite Eight, Day 1

Texas Tech and Virginia punch their tickets to the Final Four

Jon Simon
March 31, 2019 - 12:31 am

Photo: Robert Hanashiro - USA TODAY Sports

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The first two teams punched their tickets to the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday as Texas Tech and Virginia will be heading to Minneapolis, Minnesota to compete for the NCAA title.

The Red Raiders continued their solid run to the Final Four with an impressive win over top-seeded Gonzaga in the West Region, while Virginia redeems themselves after their first round exit last year to the UMBC Retrievers.

Here is how the first round of Elite Eight games went down:

 

West Region Final (Anaheim, CA):

(3) Texas Tech – 75, (1) Gonzaga – 69: 

The third-seeded Red Raiders bested the top-seeded Bulldogs in an absolute slugfest on Saturday night, earning a trip to their first Final Four in program history. Texas Tech held the nation’s top-scoring team to 20 points below their season average and forced 16 turnovers. It was also only the fourth time Gonzaga scored less than 70 points this season.

Everyone expected the Red Raiders’ top-ranked defense to show up, but Texas Tech’s shooting late in the game helped seal the victory.

Gonzaga held a 37-35 lead at the break after a back-and-forth first half. There were nine different lead changes in the first 20 minutes and neither team led by more than five.  The trend continued in the second half, as both teams got their punches in, but neither was able to pull away. 

The Bulldogs faced their largest deficit of the tournament after Texas Tech went ahead 66-60 with 1:50 to go following a three-pointer from Davide Moretti. Gonzaga was down seven with under a minute left, but a layup from Josh Perkins cut it to 69-64 with 43-seconds to play.

Moretti brought the ball up on the ensuing possession, but dribbled for a bit too long and gave it back to the Bulldogs. Gonzaga failed to score, but got the ball back thanks to another Red Raider turnover, and Perkins hit a three to cut the Zags’ deficit to two with 23 ticks left on the clock.

After a pair of free throws from Texas Tech’s Matt Mooney and a basket from Gonzaga’s Zach Norvell Jr., the Red Raiders held a 71-69 lead with 12-seconds to go.

On the following inbound, Perkins got a bit too antsy and reached over the baseline, tipped the ball out of Mooney’s hand before the inbound, and got called for a technical foul.

Moretti made up for his costly turnover and sank two free throws to put Texas Tech up four. Jarrett Culver tacked on another pair of shots from the charity strike to get it to 75-69. Culver led the Red Raiders with 19 points; he’s been their leading scorer in all four NCAA Tournament games this year.

Mooney finished second in scoring for Texas Tech with 17 points to go with five assists and three steals. Moretti scored 12 points and was the only other Red Raider to finish in double figures. Tariq Owens scored nine points and grabbed seven rebounds to go with a game-high five blocks.

Owens’ biggest rejection came when he slid to the corner and blocked a Rui Hachimura three-point attempt with under a minute to go. The Red Raiders led 68-62 at the time and Owens’ block kept it at a two-possession game.

Hachimura led Gonzaga with 22 points along with six rebounds. Brandon Clarke recorded a double-double for the second straight game, finishing with 18 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. Perkins and Norvell Jr. finished with 16 and 10 points respectively.

The Bulldogs finished the year with a record of 33-4. Gonzaga has now won 30-plus games in each of the last three seasons and has done it five times over the last seven years.

Texas Tech earned their 30th win of the season with the victory over Gonzaga. The Red Raiders will make their Final Four debut on Saturday, April 6 against either Duke or Michigan State. The Blue Devils and Spartans will meet in the east region final on Sunday night. 

 

South Region Final (Louisville, KY): 

(1) Virginia – 80, (3) Purdue – 75 (OT):

Purdue’s Carsen Edwards put on one of the best NCAA Tournament performances in recent memory on Friday night, but after giving up a game-tying buzzer beater at the end of regulation, the Boilermakers fell to the top-seeded Cavaliers in overtime in heartbreaking fashion.

Virginia and Purdue put on an absolute classic in Louisville, Kentucky. The Boilermakers took the best defensive team in the nation to their absolute limit, shooting just under 50-percent (27-for-55) and 44-percent from three (14-for-32).

Edwards had one of if not the best game of his career, scoring 42 points on 14-for-25 shooting. The junior put on a show from behind the arc, finishing 10-for-19 from three. He was the only Boilermaker to finish in double figures and was one three-pointer away from tying the NCAA Tournament record for most in a game.

Edwards was also named the Most Outstanding Player of the South regional, the first player to win it despite losing the game since 2008. With his 42-point performance in the Elite Eight, Edwards finished with 139 points in this year’s NCAA Tournament, the most points through four tournament games since 2000.

Purdue held a slim 30-29 lead at halftime but fell behind by as much as eight in the second half after Virginia’s Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome began to heat up. Guy led the Cavaliers with 25 points and 10 rebounds; Jerome was right behind with 24 points along with seven assists and four rebounds. The duo shot a combined 9-for-22 from behind the arc, and were the only two Cavaliers to make a three.

Despite being the lower-seeded team, Purdue had noticeably more support in the building. Edwards traded baskets down the stretch with the aforementioned Virginia duo, and as more time ticked off the clock, the more it felt like Purdue was going to pull through and advance to their first Final Four since 1980.

The roof almost came off the arena when Edwards banked-in a three to put Purdue in front 69-67 with 1:11 to go. Guy tried to respond with a three at the other end but missed. Edwards missed a possible dagger of a three-pointer with 21 seconds to go, but senior Grady Eifert grabbed the offensive rebound and gave the Boilermakers a chance to put the game on ice.

Ryan Cline went to the line with 17-seconds left but only made one of his two free throws. Purdue was up three and decided to foul with six-seconds left and sent Jerome to the line for a crucial one-and-one.

Jerome made his first attempt from the line, but the second one bounced off the back of the rim and out. The ball was tipped beyond mid-court and Virginia’s Kihei Clark sprinted back, gathered it, and fired a pass to a wide-open Mamadi Diakite, who floated a shot in over 7-foot-3 Matt Haarms at the buzzer to tie the game 80-80.

Virginia finally was able to contain Edwards in the extra period, but the game still wasn’t decided until the final seconds.

Guy hit two free throws to put Virginia up 78-75 with five-seconds to go, but Purdue had plenty of time to get a good final shot. Edwards began to dash up the sideline but slowed up around mid-court and fired a pass to Cline, however, it was a bit out of his reach and the ball went out of bounds with 1.8-seconds to go, virtually ending Purdue’s hopes of a Final Four berth.

Clark hit two free throws with a second left to seal the win for Virginia, they were the only two points the freshman guard scored all night. De’Andre Hunter finished with 10 points for the Cavaliers and scored four of them in overtime. Diakite finished with 14 points and eight rebounds.

Virginia’s Final Four appearance will be the programs first since 1984. The Cavaliers run has also been a redemption story, as they are making up for their upset loss to 16-seed UMBC in the first round of last year’s NCAA Tournament.

Virginia head coach Tony Bennett, who is in his 10th season with the team, will be making his first Final Four appearance. Dick Bennett, Tony’s father, coached Wisconsin to the Final Four in 2000, ironically defeating Purdue in the regional final to get there. They become the second father-son duo to both coach teams to a Final Four (John Thompson and John Thompson III). Virginia will face the winner of Kentucky and Auburn in the Final Four. 

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