NCAA PREVIEW: No. 1 Gonzaga

NCAA PREVIEW: No. 1 Gonzaga

ANAHEIM, California – It isn't about getting here this year. It's about getting there.

With a berth to the NCAA Final Four on the line, No. 3-seeded Texas Tech will take on No. 1 Gonzaga at 3:09 p.m. (PT) on Saturday at the Honda Center with the winner advancing to the NCAA Final Four next week in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Red Raiders (29-6), who won the Big 12 regular-season championship and are 74-30 under head coach Chris Beard, are back in the Elite Eight for the second year in a row after advancing to the program's first-ever Elite Eight last season. Tech has already checked off multiple program-first this season and now seek its first trip to a Final Four after reaching the fourth round with a 63-44 win over Michigan on Thursday in the Sweet 16.

Texas Tech is second in the nation by limiting teams to 58.7 points per game and 36.7 percent shooting, while Gonzaga leads the nation at 88.2 points per game to set up a matchup of the top defensive team against the top offensive team in the country.  

Gonzaga advanced with a 72-58 win over No. 4 Florida State in the first game of the day in Anaheim with Rui Hachimura leading the way with 17 points, while Brandon Clarke had a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds in the game. The Bulldogs will be making their fourth Elite Eight appearance and third since 2015.

"I've seen Gonzaga as much as anybody, just as a fan," Beard said. "I mentioned this yesterday we show our team clips of winning basketball. We show a lot of Gonzaga clips. Their passion, their togetherness, their courage, thousand aggressive they are, at this point I'm a fan and here in the next hour or so I've got to flip that and start to get ready to try to prepare against them. I can say this early on no one has more respect for Gonzaga than I do personally and our program."

Tech advanced to Anaheim with a 72-57 win over No. 14 Northern Kentucky and snapped a 13-game winning streak by No. 6 Buffalo with a 78-58 victory in Tulsa before the 63-44 win over Michigan on Thursday in the Sweet 16. The Red Raiders are holding opponents to 53.0 points per game and to 35.6 percent shooting through three games in the NCAA Tournament.

ELITE DEFENSE: Texas Tech has allowed only five opponents to score over 70 points and has limited 12 to under 55 points. Michigan was limited to a season-low 44 points and it was the 22nd double-digit win by the Red Raiders. Buffalo averaged 84.4 points on the season and was limited to a season-low 58 on Sunday where it also shot 10 percent lower than its season average. Tech is limiting its opponents to 35.6 percent shooting from the field and to 22.1 percent on 3-pointers through its first three NCAA Tournament games. In the regular season, Texas was held to 29.6 percent shooting in Tech's home finale which made them the sixth opponent this season to shoot under 30 percent, while NKU was held to 37.1 percent, Buffalo to 36.5 and Michigan to 32.7 percent to give the Red Raiders 22 opponents to shoot under 40 percent this season. The Wolverines were held to 1-for-19 on 3-pointers against the Tech defense.

SERIES HISTORY: Texas Tech and Gonzaga will be meeting in the NCAA Tournament for the second time and for the third overall time with the Red Raiders owning a 2-0 advantage in the all-time series. Tech secured 71-69 win over the Bulldogs on March 18, 2005 in the 2nd round of the tournament in Tucson and then again on Nov. 23, 2007 in Alaska. Current Tech grad assistant Ronald Ross scored 24 points and had nine rebounds in the NCAA Tournament win over Gonzaga. Beard was an assistant for coach Bob Knight in the win.

Texas Tech has a plus-4.7 turnover margin advantage during the NCAA Tournament after having only eight against Michigan and forcing NKU to commit 17 turnovers and Buffalo 16. The Red Raiders have forced 47 turnovers by their opponents during those games and have only lost 33 possessions during the tournament. For the season, TTU has a plus-3.4 turnover margin advantage which was second in the Big 12 and is 22nd nationally. Tech committed only nine turnovers at ISU, had seven against Texas and OSU and limited turnovers to eight against KU during a late-season stretch of wins. The team has 12 games with single-digit turnovers this season and had a season-low six turnovers in the non-conference win over Northern Colorado. Tech is on a streak of 15 straight games where it has not committed more turnovers than its opponents.

PLAYER NOTES: Jarrett Culver was named the first Big 12 Conference Player of the Year in program history and has also earned NABC, USBWA and Sporting News All-America honors in a season where he is averaging 18.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. A sophomore from Lubbock, Culver is coming off a 22-point performance against Michigan where he hit nine shots and was 4-for-4 at the free-throw line. He is averaging 22.3 points per game in the NCAA Tournament after starting it by going off for 29 points, eight rebounds and a career-high eight assists in the first-round win over Northern Kentucky in a Friday afternoon matchup and then recorded his fifth double-double of the season with 16 points and 10 rebounds against Buffalo. He enters his second Elite Eight having scored 1,075 career points after coming into the national postseason having recorded a career-high 31 in the regular-season finale at Iowa State and then his fourth double-double of the season with 26 points and 10 rebounds in the Big 12 Championship quarterfinals against West Virginia. Culver averaged 7.5 points and 5.0 rebounds per game in last year's NCAA Elite Eight run, including scoring 11 points against Florida and Villanova. Culver had 11 points and nine rebounds against Florida to help propel the team to the Sweet 16 as a freshman. This season, he was 10-for-17 from the field with three 3-pointers and also knocked down six free throws to help knock off the Norse in the first-round matchup before adding five assists to his double-double against the Bulls. Culver is the first player to reach 1,000 points as a freshman-sophomore in program history and is the 42nd player in program history to reach the milestone. His 17.8 points per game in Big 12 play ranked as the program's fifth most. Culver was named the Big 12 Conference Player of the Week three times this season after he earned the award following his 31 points against ISU that followed 16 points and seven rebounds against Texas in the home finale. He won his second Big 12 weekly honor after going for 26 points against Kansas and followed it by recording his third double-double of the season with 19 points and 10 rebounds in the win over Oklahoma State. Culver has led the team in scoring in 23 of 35 games and finished the conference campaign averaging 17.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and has 57 assists. Culver is a finalist for the Jerry West Award finalist and John R. Wooden Award along with being on the Oscar Robertson Trophy and Lute Olson Award watch lists. He was named to the Sporting News All-America second-team and earned All-Big 12 First Team to go along with his conference player of the year honor. He has scored in double figures in 34 of 35 games and is shooting 48.4 percent from the field overall and was 44.6 percent in Big 12 play. Culver had recorded a previous career-high with 30 points against Abilene Christian on Dec. 20 where he went 12-for-13 from the field and hit four 3-pointers. He was named the Big 12 Player of the Week for the first time this season after the performance and followed it by going to New York and scoring 25 points against Duke. Culver is averaging 24.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game in the last five games where he is shooting 50.0 percent from the field and also has 23 assists and 11 steals in those games.

Davide Moretti has scored in double-digits in 10 straight games after going 5-for-7 from the field with three 3-pointers against Michigan. Moretti finished the game with 15 points and four assists to help lead the team back to the Elite Eight. He was named an All-Big 12 Conference Third Team selection as one of the top shooters in the nation and is currently second in the country by shooting 92.1 percent at the free-throw line where he has gone 93 of 101 this season where is only behind Gavin Peppers who finished his season at 92.4 percent for Nicholls State. Moretti is shooting 50.4 percent from the field and a program-best 46.2 percent on 3-pointers to go along with his free-throw percentage. A coach's son from Italy, Moretti is averaging 11.6 points and 2.5 assists per game in his second season with the program. He scored 11 points against Buffalo after going 5-for-6 from the free-throw line following a game where he scored 10 points and had five rebounds in the win over NKU on Friday. Moretti averaged 4.8 points per game during last year's NCAA tournament as a freshman, including scoring seven in the Sweet 16 win over Purdue before going for seven more in the loss to Villanova. He scored 20 points with four 3-pointers at Iowa State in the regular season finale at Iowa State and has now scored in double figures in nine straight games after averaging 10.5 points per game in the first two NCAA Tournament games. He hit two 3-pointers in the conference tournament quarterfinal to extend a 21-game streak of making a 3-pointer before having that streak end without one in Tulsa. His three 3-pointers on Thursday against Michigan was the 13th time this season he's had three or more in a game. He'll come into the matchup against Gonzaga at 12.0 points per game through three NCAA Tournament contests. Back in the regular season, he led Texas Tech with 20 points after going 12-for-12 from the free-throw line and 2-for-2 on 3-pointers at Oklahoma State and followed it by scoring 15 points at TCU with three more 3-pointers. Moretti, who averaged 13.2 points and 2.7 assists in conference play, has made a 3-pointer in 29 of 35 games this season for the Red Raiders. Moretti recorded a career-high 21 points against Arkansas in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge after going 6-for-9 from the field with three 3-pointers. He shot 53.5 percent on 3-pointers in conference play and is 67-for-145 from beyond the arc this season and has made 93 3-pointers in his career. Moretti scored in double figures in 16 of 18 Big 12 games this season and now has 534 points through 72 games in his career. He has started all 35 games for the Red Raiders this season after making one start in 37 games played as a freshman. Moretti made a career-high five 3-pointers against MVSU in non-conference play and has 10 games with four more assists, including having a career-high eight assists in the win at Oklahoma State.

After losing five seniors off last season's NCAA Elite Eight team, Texas Tech remained a veteran team through recruiting by adding graduate transfers Matt Mooney (University of South Dakota) and Tariq Owens (St. John's) to go along with returners Norense Odiase and Brandone Francis to make up a senior class of four for the Red Raiders. Mooney was named to the All-Big 12 Second-Team, the Big 12 Newcomer Team and he and Owens were both selected for the Big 12 All-Defensive Team. Owens was advanced to the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Award Semifinalist Watch List. Mooney and Owens were on the original list, making TTU the only team with two members on the original list of 15.

Owens electrified the Tech team and fan base on Thursday night with a pair of huge second-half dunks and also had 10 rebounds and two blocked shots against Michigan in the Sweet 16 win. Owens, who is playing in his first NCAA Tournament of his career, went for 10 points and seven rebounds in the win over Buffalo after scoring 12 points with five blocked shots in the win over Northern Kentucky to record three or more blocks in five straight games. He owns the single-season program record at 85 after his two on Thursday night and has seven blocks through three NCAA Tournament games. He did not have a blocked shot against the Bulls which was the first game this season without one. Owens was 4-for-4 from the field against Buffalo after going 6-for-7 from the field against the Norse and also had three rebounds. He had a season-high 14 rebounds in the win over the Cyclones in the regular-season finale and then went for 14 points against WVU at the tournament leading into the tournament. He would record his third double-double of the season by securing 13 rebounds at TCU where he also added 12 points in Fort Worth. Owens has scored in double figures in eight of the last 10 games and has averaged 10.7 points and 6.6 rebounds per game in those games. He secured his second double-double of the season by scoring 12 points and adding 10 rebounds in the first matchup at Kansas. An Odenton, Maryland native, he had one of his best offensive games of the season after scoring 17 points in the first matchup against TCU where he was 7-for-9 from the field, including going 2-for-2 on 3-pointers in the first matchup between the two teams. Owens is averaging 8.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocked shots going into the game against the Bulldogs. He had 43 blocks in Big 12 play and was fourth in the conference with a 60.2 shooting percentage. Owens, who led the BIG EAST in blocks the past two seasons while playing at St. John's, established a new Texas Tech single-game record with eight blocks in the win over Memphis on Dec. 1 in Miami after starting his Red Raider career with six blocks against Incarnate Word in the season opener. He had a season-high 18 points against Southern Cal in Kansas City and recorded the team's first double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds in his eight-block performance against Memphis. Owens transferred to Tech after playing his freshman season at Tennessee and then two years at St. John's. He came to Lubbock with 179 blocked shots and now has 265 in his career.

Mooney established a new career-high with eight assists in the win over NKU and is averaging 10.9 points, 3.2 assists and 1.8 steals per game for the Red Raiders after having 10 points against Michigan. He scored 11 points and had four rebounds on Sunday against the Buffalo and also had two steals. A graduate transfer, Mooney earned Big 12 Conference Second-Team honors along with being named to the Big 12 All-Newcomer Team and Big 12 All-Defensive Team. He came into the first NCAA Tournament of his career after a game against WVU where he hit three 3-pointers and finished with 13 points and five assists for the second straight game. He went for 13 points, four steals and five assists in the win over Iowa State in the regular-season finale and now has 21 assists in the past five game. His conference season was highlighted by scoring a season-high 22 points at Texas where he was 8-for-10 from the field with three 3-pointers and scored in double-figures in 10 conference games this season. He now has three games in his collegiate career with five 3-pointers and has 42 3-pointers this season for the Red Raiders after making two against the Wolverines and one against Buffalo and NKU. He now has 11 games with five assists or more, including seven games with six assists before his eight against the Norse. Through the 18 conference games, he averaged 11.1 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 3.1 assists per game in Big 12 play. An Illinois native, Mooney started his career at Air Force before playing two seasons at South Dakota where he led his team in scoring both years. He is shooting 41.9 percent from the field this season, has scored in double figures in 20 games and leads the team with his 64 steals after having a team-leading nine in the first three rounds of the tournament. He's had at least one steal in 30 of 35 games this season. Mooney transferred to Tech having recorded 1,480 points, 166 steals and 228 assists at Air Force and South Dakota. He now has 1,857 points, 230 steals and 345 assists in his collegiate career.

Odiase recorded his first double-double of the season with a career-high 15 rebounds and a season-high 14 points in the win over Buffalo on Sunday and had four rebounds against Michigan. He has made 108 career starts and played in 123 games as a Red Raider and is averaging 4.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.0 block per game in his senior season. He was 4-for-4 from the field against Buffalo and had seven of his 15 rebounds on the offensive end of the court. The most veteran player in the program, Odiase scored the first four points in the win over NKU and also had two blocks in the first-round game. He has played in eight NCAA tournament games and has 32 rebounds in those games. In the regular season he would record back-to-back double-digit rebounding performances with 11 rebounds at OU after having 10 against West Virginia in the regular season and then had a three-block performance against Texas to highlight his success down the stretch for the Red Raiders. Odiase also had five rebounds in the win over ISU in the regular-season finale to finish with nine conference games with five or more rebounds. He had a previous season-high nine points against the Mountaineers. The career resume boasts 578 rebounds, 615 points and 78 blocked shots in his career as a Red Raider that includes three trips the NCAA tournament. A Fort Worth native, Odiase is shooting 57.6 percent from the field. He had his previous career-high 13 rebound performance in the win over Southeastern Louisiana on Nov. 13 after a 10-rebound game against Mississippi Valley State. Odiase scored seven points to go along with his seven rebounds against Duke after going 3-for-4 from the field and finished with 91 rebounds and 20 blocks in conference play.

Francis made two 3s and finished with six points against the Norse and is now averaging 6.1 points and 1.4 assists per game in his senior season where he has made at least one 3-pointer in 24 games. He had five points against Buffalo and four against Michigan. A senior guard, he went for 12 points and four rebounds on his Senior Night after hitting two 3-pointers against Texas and followed it with two big second-half 3-pointers against ISU in the regular-season finale. After scoring five points in the loss to WVU, he now has 38 3-pointers on the season. A reserve in 34 of 35 games this season with an average of 23.5 minutes per game, Francis had a streak of seven straight games with a 3-pointer end at OSU but comes into the Elite Eight with 39 on the season. A Dominican Republic native, he started his career at Florida before transferring to Lubbock where he averaged 5.1 points per game with 33 3-pointers as a junior during the Elite 8 run, including a career-high 17 points in the win over West Virginia. Francis scored 13 points in the opener against UIW and would contribute 10 points and a career-high six assists in the neutral-court win over Memphis. He has scored 402 points in 72 games in his career for the Red Raiders.

Texas Tech sophomore Deshawn Corprew is averaging 5.4 points and 3.6 rebounds per game this season. Corprew scored five points with one 3-pointer and also had three rebounds against Buffalo before having four rebounds in the win over Michigan. In the regular season, he was 5-for-6 from the field with 12 points in the win at TCU and followed it by recording seven points and six rebounds in the win over Texas at the end of the regular season. A transfer from South Plains College, he recorded a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds against UTRGV. Corprew, who made his only start of the season in that game against UTRGV, was 6-for-8 from the field to match a previous career-high of 13 points that he also had against Northern Colorado. Kyler Edwards hit two second-half 3-pointers in the win against Buffalo and had one against Michigan. He is averaging 5.2 points and 1.1 assists per game in his freshman season where he recorded a career-high six assists and added eight points in the win over OU and shot 32.4 on 3-pointers in conference play. He scored nine points in two conference games, first in the home game against KSU and then against Iowa State before going 3-for-3 from the field for eight points in Norman. A guard from Arlington, he has scored nine or more points in eight games this season and has recorded four double-digit scoring performances. Edwards recorded a career-high 19 points against Northern Colorado where he went 7-for-7 from the field with four 3-pointers. Avery Benson scored a career-high five points against Baylor after recording a career-high three steals in 11 minutes against WVU, while Parker Hicks scored a career-high with five points against the Mountaineers.  Hicks was 2-for-4 from the field, including hitting one of the eight 3-pointers by the Red Raiders in the 31-point win.

GONZAGA BULLDOGS: The Bulldogs come into the matchup against the Red Raiders having won 24 of their last 25 games after their 72-58 win over No. 4 Florida State on Thursday. Gonzaga went 16-0 in WCC play this season and also have wins over Fairleigh Dickinson and Baylor in the National Tournament. The Bulldogs are averaging 88.2 points per game this season with seven games having scored over 100 points.

Ruik Hachimura leads the team with 19.6 points per game and is also averaging 6.5 rebounds per game, while Brandon Clarke leads the team with 8.5 rebounds per game and is averaging 16.9 points per game. Zach Norvell is adding 15.1 points and has 112 assists and Josh Perkins is at 10.9 points per game to give the Bulldogs four players averaging in double figures. Perkins leads the team with 228 assist this season, while Clarke leads with 115 blocked shots.

Gonzaga comes into the game shooting 52.8 percent from the field and is limiting its opponents to 38.7 percent. The program is playing in its 22nd national tournament has advanced to four Elite Eight rounds. The Bulldogs are 31-19 in tournament games under coach Mark Few who is 568-121 in his career.  

WIN MILESTONE: The Red Raiders have now won 25 games or more four times in program history and are a 29-win team for only the second time in program history. The program also won 25 games in the 1975-76 season and set the program record with 30 wins in the 1995-96 season. Tech reached the 20-win milestone with its victory over Oklahoma State and has now recorded 20 wins in a season 13 times in program history. The team went 27-10 last season and has back-to-back 20-win years for the first time since the 2003-04 and 2004-05 under head coach Bob Knight. We are in the midst of the winningest two years span in program history.

Chris Beard: Big 12 Coach of the Year; USBWA District Coach of the Year
Jarrett Culver: Big 12 Player of the Year, John R. Wooden Award Finalist, Jerry West Award Finalist, USBWA All-America 2nd Team, Sporting News All-America 2nd Team, All-Big 12 First-Team, NABC All-District, 3-time Big 12 Player of the Week, Big 12 All-Academic Team
Matt Mooney: All-Big 12 Second Team, All-Big 12 Newcomer Team, All-Big 12 Defensive Team
Davide Moretti: All-Big 12 Third-Team, CoSIDA Academic All-District, Academic All-Big 12
Tariq Owens: All-Big 12 Honorable Mention, All-Big 12 Defensive Team, Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Semifinalist
Andrew Sorrells, Avery Benson, Parker Hicks, Norense Odiase, Malik Ondigo: Academic All-Big 12

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