No defense to Texas Tech’s defense

Michigan State had no answers to break down Texas Tech's defense.

Defense wins championships tends to be a tired, overused cliche in sports. It becomes annoying, especially when a team plays defense and lose.

But the Texas Tech Red Raiders bring legitimate credence to this theory. They play 40 minutes of defense, and they never let up for one bit. And that’s why they are 40 minutes away from celebrating their first national championship ever on Monday night.

Texas Tech turned Michigan State point guard Cassius Winston into a pedestrian player by having him score 16 points on 4-of-16 shooting with nine in the first half and seven in the second half. They made Michigan State’s trio of big men out to be midgets by doing exactly nothing in the paint. They forced the Spartans to shoot 31.9 percent. It was a defensive clinic they demonstrated.

Not even the big bad Michigan State Spartans could figure out how to break through Texas Tech’s defense. Michigan State offered no explosion to break down Texas Tech’s defense. Texas Tech forced the Spartans to take jumpers rather than score in the paint, and the Spartans struggled to make shots and get their offense going, which is why they won 61-51 on Saturday night at U.S. Bank Stadium.

If anything else, Texas Tech made defense beautiful to watch in a sense it’s admirable these guys would exert so much energy playing defense the entire game and sacrifice their offense for the common good.

All coaches of any level of basketball could only watch with envy. Maybe they tape this game and show it to all players how to play basketball the way it should be. That’s if the players listen. After all, a coach can tell so much, but if the players ignore them, there’s nothing a coach can do.

Third-year Texas Tech basketball coach Chris Beard deserves credit for getting his players to buy in what he preaches. It can’t be easy to tell a modern player to play defense. No one remembers Tariq Owens as a player who wanted to play defense at St. John’s, so for him to make the transformation into being a defensive player, it’s amazing to see.

Saturday’s game exemplified Beard getting his team to play hard on defense and be better prepared to beat a good Michigan State team. This game demonstrated why Beard won the AP Coach of the Year award.

To think Michigan State started off well by shooting the first two 3-pointers in the game that would give them a 6-4 lead early on. Texas Tech went to work right away by forcing Xavier Tillman and Nick Ward to turn the ball over followed by Matt McQuaid missing a three-pointer and Winston turning the ball over.

It would go on and on and on all game for Michigan State. Not even Izzo could have found a wrinkle or two to figure out Texas Tech’s defense. Michigan State went through many scoreless droughts during the course of the game.

Michigan State prides itself on toughness, but on this night, they appeared scared to score in the paint. When they have opportunity to do so, it was Jarrett Culver and Owens that deflected the ball from going in.

Michigan State banked on big men to counteract with Texas Tech’s big men, which is why they liked their chances to win. So much for that. Nick Ward, Henry and Tillman couldn’t do anything against Texas Tech’s big men for most of the night. That’s when Michigan State knew they were in for a long night.

No one should have been surprised at what Texas Tech did. It’s surprising Michigan State offered little resistance in the second half. There’s no question the Red Raiders had so much to do with it. They are not just big, but they have so much length for teams to deal with. It’s also their will to be perfect defensively.

Texas Tech earned its Final Four appearance by beating offensive-minded teams in Michigan and Gonzaga. It’s no wonder why everyone gave the Red Raiders more than a puncher’s chance to win the national championship.

The way the Red Raiders played this Saturday night, it would be an upset if they don’t celebrate as national champions on Monday night.

Of course, they will play a team that is a mirror image of their own in the Virginia Cavaliers.

But who can doubt them the way they are going?

If they can fluster big bad Michigan State, playing Virginia has to be a breeze.

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