SAN DIEGO — Texas Tech is dancing on to the Sweet 16.
The No. 3 Red Raiders won an intense contest against No. 11 Notre Dame 59-53 Sunday, setting up a matchup with No. 2 Duke in San Francisco for the Sweet 16.
Texas Tech and Notre Dame played a tight game throughout. Texas Tech led for much of the way, but the Irish used an 11-2 run to wrestle the lead away in the second half. Notre Dame led 52-49 with two minutes remaining, but the Red Raider defense clamped down and the team made eight-straight free throws on the other end to take the lead back and seal the win.
Senior forward Marcus Santos-Silva came up huge on both ends at the end of the game. After Notre Dame attacked Bryson Williams for points on consecutive possessions, Mark Adams switched him out for Santos-Silva. Irish guard Blake Wesley attacked Santos-Silva just as he did Williams, but Santos Silva blocked his layup and recovered the rebound. Notre Dame hacked Santos-Silva, who has struggled shooting free throws all season, but he came through.
Santos-Silva shot the free throws with his right hand. He shot his foul shots lefty for much of the season before making a mid-season switch. With the stakes at their highest, his right hand delivered two perfect shots.
Kevin Obanor, who became a March Madness hero last season when he led No. 15 Oral Roberts to the Sweet 16, recorded a double-double for the second-straight game. He finished the contest with 15 points and 15 rebounds, both the highest on either team.
The Red Raiders trailed by one point with 1:10 remaining when Obanor wrestled a rebound away from the Irish and drew a foul. He made two free throws, giving Tech a lead it would not relinquish.
Obanor scored 11 of his points in the first half, helping the Red Raiders stay afloat against a tough Irish defense. Notre Dame played a mixture of zone and man defense that held Tech in check but the Red Raider defense was equally as stingy. They completely walled off the basket, allowing just two 2-pointers before halftime. Tech led 26-25 after the whistle blew.
The Irish struggled to counter Texas Tech’s aggression on defense, shooting just 32.7 percent from the field for the game. Irish coach Mike Brey drew up a 3-point heavy approach. Notre Dame launched 28 3s compared to just 24 shots from inside the arc.
Still, Notre Dame eventually became more comfortable on that end of the floor. Dane Goodwin and Cormac Ryan buried consecutive 3-pointers to tie the game 39-39 with 11:23 remaining. Minutes later, a Trey Wertz 3-pointer gave the Irish their first lead of the second half.
Late in the game, Brey used freshman guard Blake Wesley to attack Bryson Williams. With the score tied at 49, Wesley – Notre Dame’s leading scorer and a possible first-round NBA Draft pick – shook Williams and sank a mid-range jump shot. On the next possession, Williams fouled Wesley and Wesley split a pair of free throws.
After that, Mark Adams threw a counterpunch. Adams put Santos-Silva in for Williams and switched to a trapping defense, which disturbed Wesley’s rhythm. The freshman committed two turnovers on the next three possessions, both on wild drives to the basket.
Meanwhile, Texas Tech got to the free throw line over and over again on the other side of the floor. After Kevin McCullar made a 3-pointer to give Tech a lead with 7:14 remaining, seven minutes passed before the team’s next field goal, a McCullar dunk to ice the win. Tech went 10-for-10 from the free throw line in that span.
At age 65, Mark Adams added the first two NCAA Tournament wins of his career to his resume. In the Sweet 16, he’ll be going against a coach with 99 of them – Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski. Krzyzewski has said he will not coach again after this season, and Texas Tech now has the chance to send the legendary coach into retirement.