Notre Dame made a valiant effort at beating Texas Tech at its own game Sunday.
But nobody grinds it out quite like the Red Raiders, who rode a late defensive stop to a 59-53 win over the Fighting Irish to secure their spot in the Sweet 16 of the men's NCAA tournament. Their reward: A date with Duke in San Francisco next weekend after the Blue Devils beat Michigan State earlier Sunday.
The Irish and Red Raiders repeatedly traded blows in a game that bounced back and forth all afternoon. Notre Dame took control with a 52-49 lead with 2:09 remaining on a Blake Wesley free throw. Texas Tech responded with four straight free throws from Adonis Arms and Kevin Obanor to retake the lead, 53-52.
Then Texas Tech did what Texas Tech does best. It got a stop. Wesley attempted to retake the lead for the Irish on a drive to the basket with 58 seconds remaining. Senior forward Marcus Santos-Silva was waiting under the basket and sent back Wesley's layup attempt with a timely block.
Santos-Silva got fouled after the block and hit a pair of free throws on the other end to extend Texas Tech's lead that Notre Dame wouldn't threaten again.
How will Duke fare against TT's juggernaut defense?
The game was very much played on Texas Tech's terms. The Red Raiders boast the nation's best defense per KenPom's adjusted defensive efficiency metrics. Sunday's contest was played in the muck, with neither team shooting better than 36% from the field.
Notre Dame entered the game averaging 72.5 points per game while shooting 46.2% from the field. On Sunday it fell 19.5 points below its season average while shooting 32.7% from the field.
This is what Texas Tech does. It did it under ex-head coach Chris Beard, who has since taken this grinding brand of basketball to Texas. It continues to do so under first-year head coach Mark Adams, who spent five seasons as Beard's assistant in Lubbock before taking the head coaching job this season.
It's not always the most appealing brand of basketball for viewers. But it's effective. And it could end up giving Duke fits in the Sweet 16.