Red Raiders hold off Irish, advance to Sweet 16

Texas Tech is heading back to the Sweet 16 for the third time in four NCAA Tournaments after earning a 59-53 win over 11th-seeded Notre Dame by going on a 10-1 run to end the game on Sunday at Viejas Arena. The No. 3 Red Raiders (27-9) will now take on second-seeded Duke on Thursday in the NCAA Tournament West Region semifinals at the Chase Center in San Francisco. 

"I'm incredibly happy for these guys up here, for our basketball team to stay alive and keep moving forward and play another game," Texas Tech coach Mark Adams said. "I certainly feel for Notre Dame. They played so hard and played good enough to win. We just made a lot of great plays down the stretch. Couldn't be more happy for these guys up here and our team."

Kevin Obanor led the Red Raiders by recording a double-double with 15 points and 15 rebounds, while Bryson Williams and Kevin McCullar both scored 14 points in a game where they led 26-25 but trailed with two minutes to play. Obanor's 15 rebounds set a new program record for rebounds in a game and he has now recorded a double-double in five straight NCAA Tournament games after also having 10 points and 13 rebounds in the win over Montana State on Thursday and three last season while at Oral Roberts.

"We have the mindset of not going home," Obanor said. "All praise to the Lord. We just love each other. And this is what March is all about. And the game is not over even when we were down. We just have that mindset of just chipping it away, one possession at a time."

Down 52-49 with 1:56 to play, Adonis Arms hit a pair of free throws to start the run that was followed by two more free throws from Obanor at the 1:10 mark to take a 53-52 lead. Marcus Santos-Silva continued the streak with two more free throws, shot right-handed after switching his shot last month, and McCullar threw down a dunk with 15 seconds remaining to push the lead to 59-52.

"We made some big time plays on the defensive end," McCullar said. "It was just our will, we didn't want to send the seniors home yet. We want to keep playing basketball as long as we can and try to make a run at this thing. We're so close and we buckled down."

Free throws down the stretch won the game for the Red Raiders who were 0-for-3 at the line in the first half before going 13-for-14 in the second half to advance. Obanor's 15 rebounds were a season-high and added to Tech's 42-36 advantage in the game. The Red Raiders owned a 24-10 scoring advantage in the paint and finished the game shooting 21-for-59 from the field. Arms had seven rebounds and led Tech with four assists while also scoring five points, while Santos-Silva finished with four points and two blocked shots. Terrence Shannon, Jr. had three points with one 3-pointer to begin the second half and Davion Warren finished with two points and two assists. TTU had 10 assists on 21 made baskets and committed only eight turnovers in the game.

Tech took a 26-25 lead into halftime with Obanor leading the team with 11 points and five rebounds. Williams added six points and Arms had three points for the Red Raiders who owned a 16-4 scoring advantage in the paint but was only 2-for-9 on 3-pointers while the Irish was 5-for-16. TTU had a 22-20 rebounding advantage was 0-for-3 on free throws while Notre Dame was 6-for-6 at the line. Obanor was 5-for-8 form the field with one 3-pointer, while Arms had four rebounds to go along with hitting one 3-pointer. The Irish were only 7-for-28 (25.0 percent) from the field to start the game, led by Wesley who had six points despite going 1-for-9 to start the game. He was 4-for-4 at the free-throw line, while Atkinson had four points and three rebounds. Notre Dame finished the half two for its last 10 from the field but scored at the buzzer on a Wesley layup to make it a one-point game. Both teams had five turnovers after 20 minutes.

"We needed to do whatever it takes for us to win," Obanor said. "Even if it's an ugly win, we'll take it. We're grateful to be advancing to the Sweet 16."

The Red Raiders are now 10-3 over the past four tournaments which is the second most wins nationally. Tech matched the program record for their highest seeding and is back in the Sweet 16 after also advancing to the 2018 Elite 8 and the 2019 NCAA National Championship Final. In the program's 19th NCAA Tournament, Tech is now 19-20 all-time in tournament play and is making its fifth trip to the Sweet 16 (1996, 2005, 2018, 2019).

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