PHOENIX – Terrence Shannon Jr. watched from the bench as No. 25 Texas Tech’s bid to upset No. 5 Gonzaga ran out of steam in the second half Saturday.
Without their leading scorer, the Red Raiders fought back from an early deficit to cut Gonzaga’s lead to two points in the second half, but ultimately fell 69-55 under a barrage of Bulldog 3-pointers.
Without Shannon, who was dealing with back spasms, the team leaned on Kevin McCullar to be its primary shot creator. McCullar fought hard and posted a double-double with points (14) and rebounds (10), but was tasked with taking tough shots and finished the day 5-15 shooting. Starting big man Bryson Williams finished 2-10 from the field.
Generating good looks was difficult for Texas Tech. Its half-court offense featured many drives into a packed paint, which led to contested layups and erratic passes. Offense was particularly a struggle at the outset of the game for Texas Tech, which managed just 10 points until 8:01 remained in the first half.
The Red Raiders trailed 26-13 at one point and the game appeared to be in danger of slipping away from them, but their offense came to life before halftime. They grinded out a few baskets in the paint and took advantage of transition opportunities. A Daniel Batcho fastbreak dunk made the score 34-26 at halftime.
Before that happened, Texas Tech played impressive defense to hold Gonzaga’s high-powered offense in check and stay in the game.
Gonzaga is built around two star big men: last year’s March Madness star Drew Timme and 2021 top-ranked recruit Chet Holmgren. Saturday, the twin towers combined for just 12 points, both scoring well below their season average. Freshman Daniel Batcho was key in the effort, playing physically in the paint to prevent them from getting clean looks at the rim.
Holmgren and Timme did have an impact on the other end. The 7-foot Holmgren grabbed 11 rebounds, blocked two shots and affected many others. The Red Raiders made just 10 of their 25 layups.
Still, the momentum that Texas Tech built late in the first half carried over into the second. An Adonis Arms 3-pointer trimmed Gonzaga’s lead to 42-38 early in the half and prompted Bulldog coach Mark Few to take a timeout. Out of the timeout, McCullar got a steal and Clarence Nadolny finished a tough layup, bringing Texas Tech within two points.
Then, Gonzaga got hot from outside the arc. Andrew Nembhard and Anton Watson made back-to-back 3-pointers, providing the Bulldogs with breathing room. After a Batcho jumper, Gonzaga mounted an 8-0 run behind 3s from Nembhard and Julian Strawther. In just more than three minutes, Gonzaga’s two-point lead had climbed to 14.
The Bulldogs made a season-high 13-pointers. Nembhard had four of them and Iowa State transfer Rasir Bolton netted five. As a team, Texas Tech made just six.
The Red Raiders fought hard and effectively limited Gonzaga’s two big men, but without Shannon they were ultimately not equipped to keep up with a loaded Bulldogs roster.