Two of the best defensive teams in the country vie for their first national championship when Texas Tech meets Virginia in the NCAA Tournament title game Monday night at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Virginia has limited opponents to a national-best 55.5 points per game and 38.4 percent shooting while the Red Raiders advanced to the final by holding Michigan State to 31.9 percent from the field in Saturday's 61-51 victory.
The Cavaliers, who became the first No. 1 seed in history to lose to a 16th seed in last season's tournament, needed three free throws from junior guard Kyle Guy with less than one second left to beat Auburn 63-62 in the semifinals. "To think this time last year we were starting our spring workouts, and to still be playing at this point in the season. ... with one other team in the whole country on the stage that you dreamed about since you were a little kid, it's an unreal feeling," Virginia junior guard Ty Jerome told reporters. "We're going to do everything we can to finish the job." Texas Tech lost five of its top six scorers from last season's Elite Eight team, but leaned on its stifling defense (58.8 points, 36.8 percent shooting against) along with the emergence of Big 12 Player of the Year Jarrett Culver (18.6 points) and third-year coach Chris Beard molded the team into one capable of something special. "(Beard) said (last summer), we have enough in this gym, in this locker room right here to play on the final Monday night," Red Raiders senior guard Matt Mooney told reporters after matching his season high with 22 points Saturday. ". ... He might be psychic because here we are on the final Monday night. We just believed him and believed in each other all year long."
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ABOUT TEXAS TECH (31-6): Mooney, who averages 11.3 points overall, drained 4-of-8 from 3-point range Saturday while Culver (10 points, 3-of-12 shooting) struggled, with Beard telling reporters: "Matt had the courage to step up and take those shots. He's making plays on both ends. ... He's a special player." Sophomore guard Davide Moretti (11.4 points) saw his streak of 11 straight double-figure games end with five in the semifinal, but senior guard Brandone Francis scored nine off the bench against Michigan State. Senior forward Tariq Owens (8.8 points, team-high 2.5 blocks) suffered an ankle injury in the second half Saturday, but was able to return to the floor.
ABOUT VIRGINIA (34-3): Guy struggled shooting in the first three games of the tournament (8-for-38 overall, 3-for-26 from 3-point range), but has warmed up the last two (13-for-30, 7-for-18) while averaging 20 points. Guy leads the team overall (15.2) while sophomore swingman De'Andre Hunter (14.9), who missed last year's tournament with an injury, scored 14 on 7-of-11 shooting from the field in Saturday's victory. Jerome (13.5 points, team-high 5.4 assists) scored 24 in the South Region final against Purdue and led the way with 21 points to go along with nine boards and six assists in the semifinals, draining four 3-pointers for the second straight game.
1. Virginia junior F Mamadi Diakite is averaging 10.8 points in the NCAA Tournament - 3.4 above his season mark - and blocked five shots Saturday.
2. Texas Tech senior C Norense Odiase, who has started all 36 games, is averaging 7.3 rebounds (5.3 overall) in the last four contests after hauling in nine Saturday.
3. The Cavaliers and Red Raiders have never met ... The over-under betting total of 117.5, already down from the opening line of 119, marks the lowest number since Florida-UCLA (128) in 2006.
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