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Gonzaga falls short against Texas Tech, 75-69

The Red Raiders and their grinding defense just took the last bit of fun out of the basketball season.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-West Regional-Gonzaga vs Texas Tech Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

A wild ending, a missed call, and an untimely mental breakdown combined to end Gonzaga’s season with a 75-69 loss to Texas Tech in the Elite Eight.

Sure, it was a close game with 11 ties and 12 lead changes. But it was also abhorrently ugly because of Texas Tech’s style of play. Neither team shot the ball well. There were multiple extended stretches where both teams went scoreless for minutes at a time.

The Zags turned the ball over on 16 occasions but it could well have been 20 or more. Texas Tech had countless deflections that led to loose ball scrambles, which quite often ended up as easy buckets for the Zags.

Complete and utter breakdowns that barely resembled basketball led to a good bit of the scoring in this one. Very cool.

This is, of course, Texas Tech’s calling card. The Red Raiders own the nation’s best defense, per KenPom. Gonzaga, for what it’s worth, was on a per-possession basis actually better than Texas Tech over the 25 games prior to this one. So, the fault for this being an ugly game isn’t all on Texas Tech.

Gonzaga found success inside early with Rui Hachimura (22 points) knocking down elbow jumpers and getting to the rim. Brandon Clarke (18 points, 12 rebounds) did his damage down low as well. As that was happening, Norense Odiase picked up two quick fouls. It looked like the Zags might make easy work of things.

But Texas Tech recovered and effectively kept the Zags away from the basket from that point forward. Only 26 of the Bulldogs’ 69 points came in the paint. When Gonzaga did manage to pass the ball into the teeth of the Red Raiders’ defense, it often resulted in a turnover. Clarke alone committed six, mostly while trying to make his signature spin move into the paint.

So, the Zags were forced to shoot over the Red Raiders. 26 of the team’s 59 shots came from behind the arc, which is uncommon for a team like Gonzaga that really does not rely on the three ball. Of those 26 shots, only seven went in. And of the ones that missed, three missed everything.

Neither team led by more than five at any point over the first 38-plus minutes of play. So it was an exciting and enthralling game. But even when teams were trading buckets and control of the lead, it never looked particularly pretty. Which, unfortunately for the basketball viewing public, is exactly what Texas Tech wanted.

Down the stretch, two bizarre plays spelled Gonzaga’s doom. First, with the Red Raiders up six, Tariq Owens blocked a Clarke three. Owens then attempted to save the ball but was clearly out of bounds. There was no whistle and eventually Texas Tech extended its lead to seven on a free throw.

Then, amid a furious Zags comeback, Zach Norvell made a layup to cut the deficit to two with 14 seconds left. Josh Perkins went to guard the inbounder but inadvertently reached over the baseline and committed a foul. The resulting call was a technical, which effectively ended the game.

The Red Raiders are off to the Final Four for the first time in program history and will face the winner of Michigan State and Duke.