Jarett Culver’s 22 points were a mere subplot in third-seeded Tech’s 63-44 takedown of Michigan in the West Region on Thursday night — a victory that set up an intriguing Elite Eight showdown against Gonzaga, which boasts the country’s leading offense.
Texas Tech (29-6) is back to this point for the second straight year thanks to a shut-down job of epic proportions. The Raiders held an efficient-if-not-spectacular Michigan offense to 16 field goals, 32 percent shooting and only a single 3-point basket on 19 attempts — a clanker by C.J. Baird in mop-up duty that drooled in with 21.8 seconds left.
Only five players scored for Michigan, which was led by its brash playmaker, Iggy Brazdeikis, who finished with 17, most of which came well after the game was out of hand.
There simply wasn’t anywhere to go against a lanky, athletic Texas Tech defense that succeeds by clogging the middle, then forcing teams to either settle for jumpers with people in their face, or try to attack the rim, but pay a price while doing it.
Watching the game slip away, Michigan coach John Beilein, one of the best basketball tacticians, called a timeout early in the second half to try to get a shot, a possession, anything, that might generate something for his team to build on.
The Wolverines worked the ball to Zavier Simpson, who dribbled, and dribbled, and tried to take it to the rim against Red Raiders guard Matt Mooney. Simpson lobbed it up toward the rim. It barely grazed glass.
Moments later on the other end, Culver sent an alley-oop pass to Tariq Owens, who dunked so hard, the ball went into the band section. It made the score 36-18. By that point, the lead might as well have been a million.
Davide Moretti had three 3-pointers and 15 points for Texas Tech, which started slowly on offense, but got rolling as the second half wore on. The Red Raiders missed nine of their first 10 shots but still shot 43 percent from the floor.
Michigan’s other double-figures scorer was Charles Matthews with 12. He’s a senior, though this roster is full of underclassmen, who offer plenty of hope for 2019-20.
But on the night the 2018-19 season ended, hope for Michigan was as fleeting as an open look at the basket.
The only Michigan player outside of Baird who made at least half his shots was Jordan Poole, who went 4 for 8 for eight points.
With the game winding down, some in the Texas Tech crowd chanted “Overrated.” Coach Chris Beard wanted none of that, and signaled to them to cut it out.