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But their resolve was tested on Saturday. Gonzaga, with its ball screens, took advantage of switches to get the ball to its two N.B.A.-bound big men: Brandon Clarke and Rui Hachimura. And the Zags successfully pushed the pace, surging to a 37-35 lead at halftime.

In the second half, Texas Tech came out in a zone for a few possessions, then rarely switched and resisted the temptation to run with the Zags, controlling the pace to its liking. Then, with the score tied at 58-58, the Red Raiders defense clamped down — holding the Zags without a basket for nearly four minutes.

Meanwhile, Mooney snaked into the paint for a basket that put Texas Tech ahead, 60-58, and Moretti sank a 3-pointer to extend the advantage to 63-58. But Clarke narrowed the gap to 63-60 with two free throws, bringing the Zags’ sizable crowd into the game.

As Culver dribbled the shot clock down at the top of the arc, he glanced to his right and gave a knowing look to Moretti. With the defenders beginning to pinch Culver as the shot clock ran down, he flicked a pass to Moretti, who never hesitated, sinking another 3-pointer to put the Red Raiders ahead, 66-60, with 1:50 to play.

Gonzaga never got the ball back with a chance to get even.


“I thought he was going to pass me and I was ready for it. That’s the chemistry between us,” said Moretti, who watched Villanova’s buzzer-beating championship in 2016 late at night on his iPad at his home in Bologna, Italy. “He knows when I want the ball, and I know when he’s going to pass it to me.”

The Zags, who were the nation’s most efficient offensive team, made only 12 of 33 in the second half, and they turned the ball over 16 times for the game.

“They are really good at reaching, poking and digging things out there,” Gonzaga Coach Mark Few said of the Texas Tech defense. “This is the best team I’ve ever had for taking care of the ball. So it’s real. That defense is real.”

So, too, are the Red Raiders, who will not only continue looking for secrets in the dirt, but in Minneapolis, too.

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