One key to Texas Tech’s defensive success has been the shot-blocking presence of 6-10 forward Tariq Owens, but he could be limited for Monday’s NCAA championship game because of a right ankle sprain.
Owens, who made the Big 12’s all-defensive team, had three blocks in Saturday’s win over Michigan State but rolled the ankle in the second half. He limped to the locker room, had the ankle taped and returned to play for a few minutes before heading back to the bench.
Owens said after the game that he had an X-ray that showed nothing broken. On Sunday, he was in a walking boot during Texas Tech’s practice, according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. He was also unavailable to the media for the first time during the Final Four.
Coach Chris Beard said Owens was “pretty sore” but that he expects him to play Monday. Owens averages 8.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.
“I knew he was going to play [Saturday], even if he’s not 100 percent healthy,” Texas Tech guard Davide Moretti said. “I know he’s going to play Monday. He’s our guy. He’s our magic guy. … It’s unbelievable.”
Fans riot in Lubbock
Lubbock, Texas, police used tear gas late Saturday night after hundreds fans celebrating the Final Four win blocked an intersection near Texas Tech’s campus, with some burning couches and flipping at least one car.
“First of all, I know we have great fans at Texas Tech … And I just hate that the actions of a select few are putting Lubbock in maybe this light,” Beard said. “… So my message and my voice would be: Let’s celebrate this, let’s enjoy this, but let’s do it in the right way, in a safe way.”
Culver delivers on D
Jarrett Culver, a projected NBA lottery pick, managed just one point in the first 30 minutes Saturday, but it wasn’t all wasted time. He was a key part of the defensive plan to slow Michigan State point guard Cassius Winston, who finished 4-for-16 from the field.
“I knew I wasn’t scoring, but there’s always other ways to affect a game,” said Culver, who finished with 10 points. “Every night, I come out and I try to be one of the best defensive players on the floor, and that’s what I tried to do.”
Cellphone ban works
With Texas Tech riding a three-game road losing streak in early February, senior center Norense Odiase came up with the idea of players giving up their cellphones before road games to stay better focused. Since then, the team is 13-1.
“It just gives us a chance to get rest and discipline,” Odiase said. “Whenever you have great discipline, it can lead to great things.”
Staff writer Megan Ryan contributed to this report.